By: Dr. Jason Nicholas, The Preventive Vet
Every year in July, there’s one day dedicated to pet fire safety. Of course, we shouldn’t limit our awareness and prevention to just National Pet Fire Safety Day – the safety of our pets is just too important.
Use flameless candles for pet safety
Whether it’s from your cat gracefully slinking along your windowsill or fireplace mantle, or your dog exuberantly clearing off your coffee table with his tail, unattended lit candles pose a significant fire risk to you, your pets, and all the other members of your household. Make it a habit to never leave burning candles unattended, especially when your pets (or young children) are around. For a much safer experience, consider always using flameless candles in homes with pets and small children.
Note that these same dangers also apply to open flame potpourri warmers and burning incense. House fires can just as easily arise from these.
Keep pets from chewing electrical cords
If there’s one thing that puppies and kittens universally like to chew, it’s electrical cords! If given the chance, a teething or bored pet will often happily nibble on an electrical cord. Not only should you take the precautionary steps to prevent such masticatory behavior because of the fire hazard it poses, but also because of the mouth burns and lung and nervous system damage that it’s often associated with.
This is a big one to think about when decking the halls and trimming the tree for the holidays, and at certain other times of the year. Chewed and frayed strands of lights can easily send a dry Christmas tree up in flames – and the rest of your house and worldly possessions along with it.
Also consider the location of electrical cords when deciding where to put your new puppy’s crate – be sure not to put it close enough to any cords that she may pull through and nibble on.
Protect pets from stove burners
Nimble cats are typically the culprits here, and given the frequency with which they jump on kitchen counters and stovetops, is it any wonder that they occasionally knock into and turn on gas top ranges? You can easily keep your kitties (and the rest of your family) safe by using stove knob covers, which you can find in any good baby-proofing store.
How to keep pets safe at home
Since not all fires can be prevented, a little advanced thought and preparation is a good idea. From including your pets in your family’s disaster and emergency evacuation plans to helping to equip your local fire department with pet-specific oxygen masks, there are some important steps you can take to improve your pet’s chances of survival in the unfortunate event that a fire strikes your home.
Take an afternoon to draw up a disaster preparedness plan for your family. Be sure to include the non-human members of your crew, as well. Conduct annual “dry runs” of your evacuation plan with your family.
Have plenty of smoke detectors throughout your house, ensuring that you’ve got at least one on each level. Test them and replace the batteries regularly.
Put “Pet Alert” stickers on the inside of your front door windows so that firefighters and other first-responders will know that there may be animals inside that may need saving.
If you’re like most people and spend a lot of time outside of your home, consider having monitored fire and smoke detectors installed throughout your home. This way, the fire department will know to respond even if you and your neighbors aren’t home.
Keep a leash, carrier, or even a spare pillowcase near where your pets sleep. These can help you control them and lead them to safety in the event that an evacuation needs to happen in the middle of the night.
Contact your local fire department and ask if they have pet-specific oxygen masks. If they do, great – thank them. If not though, help them raise the funds to get some. This can be a great school or scout project for your kids to initiate. Or collaborate with your veterinarian and/or pet supply store to create a local fundraising drive.
Dr. Jason Nicholas is a veterinarian and pet safety expert, and a friend of Trupanion. Dr. Nicholas left his veterinary residency program to focus less on treating pet emergencies, and more on preventing them instead. Dr. Nicholas is The Preventive Vet, helping pet owners enjoy a long, happy life with their pet.