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Woof Wednesday: Fire Safety

I’d planned a fun Ask Amy question today, but more serious issues are on the table. North Texas and beyond continues to suffer drought conditions, with fires an ongoing risk.

Governor Rick Perry reports that more than 3.5 million acres of land have burned–that’s about the size of Connecticut–with most fires concentrated in Central Texas and devastating Bastrop county where more than 600 homes have burned so far. That area has been evacuated. The shelter has been evacuated and moved to a temporary location and then forced to be evacuated a second time. The fire continues to burn.

Austin Pets Alive! received about 160 dogs from the evacuated Bastrop County Animal Shelter early Monday morning and now offer free adopti0ns to reduce the load. APA! is asking for support from the community. Donations of dog beds, dog food, money and volunteers are all needed. Check out this heart breaking report from my colleague Steve Dale with more details.


I wrote about disaster preparation on the blog back in June,  and last Valentine’s day we had a grass fire here on our property. The video, below, doesn’t do justice to what’s happening right now in parts of Texas. Just multiply our experience by several thousand times and you still won’t come close to imagining the tragedy faced by the Bastrop area fires. Too many folks have already lost homes, property, and even the lives of human and animal loved ones. Knowing what to do should your cat or dog suffer fire-related injury could save their lives.

Most cases of smoke inhalation involve situations where the pet cannot escape. Dogs and especially cats tend to hide when frightened, and may not make an effort to get out of a burning building until too late. But the recent wind-fanned flames of grassfires move quickly, produce a lot of smoke, and can catch outdoor pets unprepared.


Pugs and other short-faced breeds have more difficulty with smoke.

Dogs and cats with history of respiratory problems, such as flat-faced breeds or pets with asthma, may suffer health problems even with mild exposure to smoke. But smoke is composed of various gases that also make pets–and people–sick when inhaled, and the ash or soot irritates and clogs the lungs. Affected pets gasp, cough, and often pass out when they can’t get enough oxygen. Their gums become pale or blue.

With mild cases of smoke inhalation, moving the cat or dog into clean air may be all that’s needed. But all pets require veterinary attention because even if they seem to recover, smoke can kill hours to days after it’s inhaled.


With burns, the fur often hides the damage, so be sure to carefully examine your pet if you suspect he’s been in the vicinity of a fire. Remove his collar, and trim the fur short with blunt scissors around and over the area of the burn.

First-degree burns cause red marks and can be treated with simple first aid. Flush the burn with cool water for 5 to 10 minutes to temporarily anesthetize and clean the injury. Burns continue to “cook” the tissue even once the heat source is gone so prompt attention stops the damage. Use a garden hose for outdoor pets or bring smaller pets into the bathtub or sink and use a spray bottle or handheld showerhead. You can use aloe vera ointments or vitamin E directly on mild burns to help speed healing. These won’t cause problems if the pet licks them off. Mild burns won’t need bandages.

Burns that cover 25 percent of the pet’s body lead to shock (that can kill him!) and applying cool water makes shock worse. Instead, apply a bag of ice to the burn (frozen peas or corn works well), wrap the pet in a towel and get him to the vet immediately. You can estimate percentage of body mass the burn involves by knowing that each limb represents about 10 percent of the pet’s total.

Have you ever experienced a fire? I know of cases where the pet actually saved the family by alerting them to the danger. What precautions have you taken to keep yourself and your pets safe in case of disaster? In these windy, dry days, protect your furry family members–and yourselves–from the threat of fire. But should the unthinkable happen, be prepared. Here’s my close call–I pray never to have this happen again.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

About amyshojai

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified animal behavior consultant (dogs/cats), award winning author of 30+ pet care titles and thrillers, and spokesperson to the pet industry.

12 responses »

  1. Thanks for posting this!

    I am one who is alive thanks to my childhood chihuahua (8th birthday present) who let us know — at 3 a.m. — that a vaporizer was smoking and catching fire. She did not quit barking the smouldering was put out and was out of her scent range. I would not have made it past age 16 had she not been so diligent. So, do listen to your pets. They often have things to tell us. Another chihuahua chased a burglar away (no doubt) by using a deep, vicious sounding bark we had never heard before (and never heard again) at 4 a.m. It certainly helped that neither of these dogs ever barked when it was their bedtime so their messages were clear.

    • Heck, even if they do bark all the time sometimes you can tell – my parents had a pup that barked CONSTANTLY, but if he saw something that honestly worried him, it carried a different tone. Granted usually out here it was things like coyotes coming after the cats and such, not so much burglars, but he protected his kitties!

    • Wow Brenda, that’s a HERO doggie for sure! Yes, it really is important to pay attention to our pets. They tell us volumes if we can just listen and understand. Thanks so much for posting your comment. That story made my day!

  2. Marking? Pffft naw, Magic Dawg’s trying to help make sure the fire stays put out. 😉

    I swear if I lived in one of the states that tends to get those wildfires, I’d be totally tempted to dig a wide moat around my yard in hopes that would keep it from taking everything. Always makes me nervous thinking about it. Here’s hoping you guys get some good hard rain here soon!

    • Thanks Karyl–and you’re right, the tone of the bark truly is different depending on what the dog’s alerting his people to. Magic does have different “tones of voice” and even the cat does.

      Praying for rain. It’ll come–but all in one day, LOL! And then we’ll deal with flooding.

      • Oh man, Simba tricked me once when I had her shut out of a room to do something without her in the way… she has this one meow she ONLY does when she’s about to get sick. So I hear her, open the door and go running, and then she sits there purring her little head off, so proud of herself. She has a few distinct ones, but I REALLY want to get some of Anubis’s range on video at some point. He’s got a range of meows I don’t think I’ve heard on any other cat. You really can have full on conversations with him sometimes.

  3. Pingback: Woof Wednesday: Fire Safety « Undercover Kitty

  4. Heartbreaking stuff … but we do need to know it.

  5. Pingback: Monday Mentions: Writer-icity, Canine Awards & Glowing Cats « Amy Shojai's Blog

  6. We’re not out of the woods in Central Texas yet. To support those who have impacted by the Texas wildfires, order a t-shirt online at and join the Texas Relief Revolution. All proceeds will go to The Central Texas Wildfire Fund, Texas Wildfire Relief, and The American Red Cross of Central Texas.


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