Bushfires and your Dog


Something you never hope to face is what to do with your pets in the even of a bushfire.

As the Boy scouts say “Be Prepared”!

I'll preface this by stating that the closest I have had to deal with bushfires was when I was a kid and there was a fire close enough that ash was dropping into our pool. I was just pissed off that Mum wouldn’t let us go outside. My heart goes out to all people who have ever been effected by such events and I hope that the process of healing rebuilding is as pain free as possible.

Having said that in July 2009 my flat that I was living in caught fire while I was home with my cat and pet rats and I can tell you I have never been so traumatised. Fire moves fast. Bloody fast. You think you know what you would do. Grab the kids, pets, photo’s and leg it! Let me tell you it all goes out the window and your brain and body stop talking to one another. I think it is because even though we are aware that something like this can happen we never actually believe it can happen to us.

So I am a huge advocate of being prepared so I thought I would provide my thoughts on this as it is so important to know what to do with your pet(s) if your home is under threat of a bushfire.

The Basics

These apply to everyone, not just people living in bushfire areas.

Keep your pets details up to date!

If your pet goes missing the best chance of them finding their way home is by being able to tell people where home is.

Always ensure that your best friends are microchipped (which is mandatory in most areas of Australia) and the details are current. If you're not sure about this, ask your vet to give it a scan and make sure the details are up to date. If you know your pet microchip number you can check out www.petaddress.com.au to find who you need to speak to in order to update your details.

Keep your tags on. A dog wearing a collar with up to date phone numbers and addresses gets home faster and with less trauma. The details on your dogs tag is the quickest and easiest way someone can help return your best friend. Relying on microchips is also relying on taking your pet to a place with a microchip scanner and for them to contact you.This usually means a trip to the point and a hefty fine. Councils are brutal. I used to work for one so I know. Cut out the need for a middle man and leave your number on your pet at all times.

These basics are great in frantic unpredictable events such as a bushfire however are also an excellent precaution for any pet owner to take. Regardless of the situation, we all want to ensure our best friends can find their way home if they happen to get lost.

The Plan

If you live in a bushfire area then I'm sure you have an emergency plan. If not, check out this!

Be sure your pets are well catered for in your bushfire plan.

Your pets have needs the same as we all do. It's a good idea to have a checklist of what they need or better yet a bug-out bag with everything they'll need for the coming days.

Things to consider when packing:

  • Bedding

  • Food and Water. These drink bottles help while on the go.

  • Bowls for food or water. Something like these are very convenient to save space.

  • Collars/harnesses

  • Leads

  • Comfort toys

  • Any medication

  • A first aid kit

  • If possible, crates or carry cages

It's important when leaving to keep your pets contained. Animals are amazing at picking up on your stresses and anxieties so may react erratically in an emergency. Keeping your best friend leashed or crated will ensure a smooth transition.

Also, if choosing to leave, be sure you're plan involves going somewhere that is pet friendly.

If you choose to stay with your pets, keep them contained with plenty of water available. Pets are safest inside. Be sure to have woolen blankets and towels prepared to protect your pet if required.

Remember to keep your pets cool at all times and try to stay alert of the overheat warning signs such as:

  • Excessively panting

  • Whining or signs of distress

  • Salvation

If your pet displays any of these signs make sure to get them veterinary attention asap.

As I tear up just thinking of how hard this would be to deal with I round back to my initial point:

Be Prepared

DON’T BE ME. I freaked out and I ran out of the flat to get the fire hose which I couldn’t turn on and then it was too late for me to get back in safely to rescue my babies. They did survive thank to the very brave MFB fighters that got to my flat so fast but it could have been a much worse outcome than Marley being covered in soot for two weeks because I couldn’t out her through the torture of having a bath.

Our pets are our family and the easiest way to keep your family safe in extreme situations is to know exactly what to do

If you live in a bushfire area I'm sure you are aware of the absolute legends at the CFA.

Please check out this link for even more detail on preparing for a bushfire with pets. There's even a handful of extra resources to help you plan and prepare effectively.