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.
FIRE FIRST AID
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.
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.
FIRST AID FOR BURNS
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.
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