How to protect pets from wildfires: tips and packing list

For Dr. Ashley Bourgeois, protecting pets from wildfire dangers is both a professional and personal concern.The board-certified veterinary dermatologist and correspondent for the new platform TopVetsTalkPets practices at Animal Dermatology Clinic Portland in Oregon. The animal hospital is so close to two blazes that it had to close its doors early on Sept. 11 and didn’t open at all yesterday because the air quality was so hazardous to the staff and pets inside and the clients waiting outside due to the coronavirus pandemic. Members of the staff developed scratchy throats and irritated eyes.

Plus, a little over a month ago, her family adopted a puppy.

“We obviously want the pets to be safe, so we want to limit their time outside,” she told TODAY. “I can definitely speak to this as not only a veterinarian but an owner of a very energetic, excitable puppy, and now we can’t really send her outside.”

Death toll continues to rise as Western wildfires burn out of control

While pets can’t exercise outside, she said it’s important to find ways to keep them entertained at home. She suggested inviting a neighbor’s pet over for an indoor play date, offering pets interactive toys like feeding puzzles, and playing indoor games, like using a laser pointer for cats and dogs to chase.

Move over Rover! 45% of dogs sleep in their owner’s bed (we’re pretty sure a large percentage also hog the blankets!)

Of course, it’s extremely important to be prepared to evacuate and to make plans to bring pets if at all possible. Sign up for emergency alerts with your county or state, and research pet-friendly hotels or reach out to family and friends who might be willing to help. Local animal shelters can also offer resources in case you have to leave.

Josie takes a quick bathroom break while smoke fills Dr. Bourgeois's backyard in Oregon. Firefighters and support personnel are working to contain 87 large fires that have burned more than 4.6 million acres in 10 states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.Courtesy of Dr. Ashley Bourgeois
Dr. Bourgeois said two staff members at her practice have already had to evacuate their homes. She’s been speaking frequently with colleagues about how to pull together a pet emergency kit, and said a packing list should include:

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  • Bottled water for you and your pet, in case you end up in an area without tap water (or where it’s unsafe)
  • Food dish (which can also be used for water)
  • At least a week’s supply of food in a waterproof container — and if your pet eats canned food, don’t forget a can opener.
  • First-aid supplies like gauze and antibiotic ointment
  • Medications (and a list of instructions in case you are separated)
  • A copy of your pet’s medical records, including vaccinations and recent care or surgeries
  • Your veterinarian’s contact info
  • A special toy or blanket that reminds your pet of home or gives comfort
  • Portable carriers for small dogs and cats
  • Sturdy harness, leash and collar
  • Litter box for cats
  • Plastic bags for waste