Bushfire first aid for animals
Pet owners can play their part in reducing the number of animals who will require veterinary help. Each family should prepare a Bushfire Survival Plan for the entire household and included in that will be your Pet Evacuation Plan and Relocation Pack.
Make sure that your pets are microchipped (It’s not just dogs and cats that can be microchipped, you can also register guinea pigs, ferrets, larger birds and reptiles.) Your dog should also wear a collar identification tag at all times, and of course make sure the contact information is current.
Pet Bushfire Relocation Kit
Put together a pack with the following items:
- Non-perishable food and water
- A bowl for each pet
- Spare collars and leads for each dog
- A carrier for cats and smaller pets
- Bedding, old towels and a woollen blanket
- A pet first-aid kit (see below) including any medications (along with a written list of what they are), your vet’s contact details; and your pet's medical history, including proof of vaccination.
Where’s the pooch?
Communication is vital in any emergency, so make sure your neighbours, family and friends know your evacuation plan. Inform them if you decide to evacuate your dog early to boarding kennels or other temporary accommodation outside of the danger zone, so that no one unnecessarily goes searching for your pet.
On high risk days, if you are going out, decide whether to take your animals to a safer location before leaving home, because if a fire gets started you may not be allowed back for some time. Remember, on Code Red days the safest place for all of you to be is away from high-risk bushfire areas.
If you are home, shut your pets inside the house so that they are close by. If the situation deteriorates, confine them early. Pets are safest inside a secure room such as a bathroom or laundry with plenty of food and water. Make sure you have wet towels and woollen blankets available to cover and protect your pets. Importantly, practise how you will move your pets if you leave. It takes longer than you think.
After the fire
Hopefully, after the fire you and your dog will simply return home and return to normal life. Keep an eye on your dog, particularly if you have come face to face with the blaze. The severity and extent of burns and smoke inhalation may not become apparent for up to two weeks. Remember that dogs tend to mask their pain – it’s a survival instinct that protects them from being singled out as the weakest member of their pack – so if an animal has been exposed to fire or smoke, please get them checked by a vet.
Watch for signs of:
- Nocturnal animals out during the day – especially tree dwelling species being on the ground.
- Panting, lethargy, disorientation.
- Singed fur and burnt paws or feet.
If a native animal appears to have been affected by fire or smoke, please call Wildlife Victoria’s emergency phone service 1300 094535 for advice . If you are unable to get help and the situation is urgent, used a towel or blanket to pick up the animal, secure it in an airy, cool carrier and take it to your nearest vet.
First Aid Kit for pets
Keep in mind not everything that works on humans is suitable for dogs and never administer human drugs or prescriptions without first checking with your vet.
Start by getting a waterproof kit container and write on it in waterproof ink, the phone numbers for your vet, the closest emergency animal hospital, the RSPCA and your local council rangers. Also list your own name, address and phone numbers. Include inside:
- Any medications (along with a written list of what they are) and your pet's medical history, including proof of vaccination
- First Aid guide and CPR instructions (or better yet take a course)
- Latex or nitrile exam gloves - for the protection of both you and your pet
- A muzzle fitted for your own dog – even the most placid animal may bite if injured and frightened - and a triangular bandage to use as a spare
- Blunt-ended scissors
- Saline water to wash out any wounds
- Antiseptic wash or wipes - look for non-stinging preparations such as chlorhexidine or betadine. Rubbing alcohol is not good for open sores or wounds.
- Gauze rolls (for bandaging, stabilizing joints, making a muzzle) and swabs
- Non-adherent bandages
- Adhesive tape
- Vet Wrap - this is a conforming wrap used over bandages that comes in a variety of colours and sizes. It clings to itself and is semi-watertight. Make sure you don’t wrap it too tightly – it’s best to unwrap it from the roll, then use it for the bandage with very light tension. Ask your vet which would be most suitable for your pet
- Dog booties or little socks (to cover wounded paws)
- Sterile eye wash and eye lubricant (available at your vet clinic)
- Alternatively, purchase a ready-made kit such as a St Johns pet first aid kit