We love the warmer months here in Australia. It means summer BBQs, long days at the beach and best of all, spending quality time with your pets. Sadly many of us are brutally aware that the dark reality of summer is the heightened risk of bushfires.
There are a number of ads reminding us to be prepared when a bushfire hits, telling us to keep first aid kits and other useful items in the car. They encourage us to create a bushfire plan to keep your family safe, but many can oversee how to protect your pet in an emergency. It’s critical when preparing for bushfire season that you’re keeping your pets in mind too. Are they part of your safe escape plan? Do you have an emergency pack ready for them if you need it? Ask yourself these questions and we’ll give you our top tips on how to prepare for the unforgiving bushfire season in Australia.
This is a message you hear time and time again – it’s so important to be planning at the start of every season. Even if you’ve already got a plan in place you need to revise it at the start of summer. So what can you do to prepare?
Pack a doggy bag (or a cat bag, or a bird bag…)
No matter what the species, they’ve got to stay safe when it’s time to leave the house. Most small animals are easy to transport but they’ll need that extra attention to avoid undue stress. This includes frequent top ups of fresh, clean water and plenty of food and toys to keep them occupied. For your fish, if you have a larger aquarium it’s always a good idea to keep a smaller fish bowl on hand. If your fish are unsocial types, such as Betta fish then you’ll want to have a couple of bowls or bags ready for them to go in.
Not sure where to start? Start with a bag or backpack
These bags are ideal to store essentials like water bottles, dry kibble and poo bags. Look for bags that have plenty of compartments and ideally waterproofed or lined with water resistant materials.
Reflective leads are ideal for emergency situations. Quick and easy to attach to your pet’s collar or harness, these leads help in low visibility areas affected by smoke haze.
It’s easy to lose sight of basic safety checks when you’re focussed on a hundred other things. Grab one of these seat belt attachments, so when you’re ready to go you simply need to clip them in. Keep one in the car – it folds away neatly.
A travel bowl for water and food
Always keep a bowl in your emergency pack. Try and pick a bowl that is portable and easy to clean. Avoid bowls that are too bulky to maximise the space you have.
Stay alert and know when to leave
In times of emergencies, stay tuned to local radio for updates and check for road closures to make the journey to safety as smooth as possible. It’s important to make sure you’ve got the essentials for your pets but also ensure you’ve got you and your family covered too. Stock up on bottled water, food and sanitary items you may need while you’re away from home. Before leaving your house there are a few things you should do such as turning off the gas and closing all doors and windows. Check out this resource for more key information and keep your eyes on websites like Vic Emergency for live updates.
The worst thing you can possibly do during a bushfire is to let your pets fend for themselves. It’s simply not safe to release birds into the wild when there’s a bushfire. Letting dogs or cats run free is an even worse idea. Keeping them close is the best way to keep them safe. It seems like common knowledge, however many people resort to primative solutions during times of emergency so education is imperative. Similarly, it's never ok to leave pets locked in cars and it's far worse to do this in situations like bushfires.
Calming products and anxiety aids
On top of all this, your pets will no doubt be feeling the anxiety, so it’s important that you try your best to keep them calm. There are a number of calming products available to naturally ease them.
Thundershirts are a popular product for pets with anxiety. The vest itself works to apply just the right amount of pressure to your dog's body, releasing a natural calming effect.
Calmz works similarly to the Thundershirt as it applies pressure to relax your pet. It also features advanced technology in calming your pet through music and vibration therapy.
During times of emergency, timing is critical. Panicking or second guessing your plans can waste precious time so it’s important that you and your household know the plan you’ve put in place. Every household can benefit from an emergency plan – while it affects those in rural and semi-rural or fringe properties, it is worthwhile having an escape plan for you and your pets in times of emergency no matter where you are. Focus on the task at hand and make getting to safety your goal. Plan early, leave early and keep everyone and every pet out of harm’s way.