Wildfires: Protecting animals and pets


Wildfires: Protecting animals and pets

There’s nothing like a disaster to suddenly reveal how deeply connected we are to our environment and other living things in it. The 2018 wildfire season in California has been the most destructive and deadly ever in our state’s history. This year, some 7,500 fires have burned 1.6 million acres across California, affecting humans and animals alike.

How to help Camp Fire survivors

Contact your local animal shelter to learn how you can volunteer. Consider donating:

  • Time. If you live in an area near a wildfire, it’s the best way to help. Thousands of animals are missing and many need urgent medical treatment.
  • Gift cards to Petco, Petsmart or Tractor Supply
  • Cat and dog food (wet and dry)
  • Cat litter and litter boxes
  • Cardboard cat carriers
  • Dog kennels or crates 
  • Collars, leashes and harnesses
  • Pet toys

Allison Cardona, Deputy Director of Operations for Los Angeles County’s Animal Care and Control, estimates that over 10,000 animals have been displaced by the Woolsey and Camp fires alone, including pets, livestock, wildlife and animals in zoos. And just like people, wildfire smoke has impacted many thousands more.

Similar to humans, those most at risk for health problems are older and younger animals and animals with pre-existing respiratory problems. Brachycephalic or snub-nosed animals (like pugs and Persian cats) are also at a higher risk. These high-risk animals have respiratory tracts that are easily stressed, which speed up breathing rates, increasing the amount of smoke inhaled.

This year, wildfire smoke particle emissions have been at an all-time high in Yolo County. Here are some tips to help you protect your animals or pets from wildfires:

  • Have a plan in place for your animals in case there’s an emergency evacuation.
  • Prepare a pet evacuation kit that includes food for five to seven days, medication, medical records and leashes or crates.
  • Check the air quality index daily. When the air quality index is above 150, everyone is affected by unhealthy air, including your animals or pets.
  • If you live in an area with unhealthy air, bring your pets inside and avoid extensive outdoor exercise with them.
  • If you have livestock, make sure they have a large supply of water available (uncontaminated by ash or smoke particles, if possible) and avoid extensive exercise with them.
  • If you believe your animal or pet has been exposed to smoke particle emissions, check for health problems. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, symptoms of smoke exposure include irritation of the eyes, nasal discharge, coughing, difficulty breathing, weakness and a reduced appetite.
  • If your pet or animal has signs of smoke exposure, observe symptoms closely. If more symptoms develop or original symptoms intensify, contact your vet.

Maddie Hunt is a former editorial assistant and budding science writer for the Environmental Health Sciences Center at UC Davis. She is a recent UC Davis graduate, with a Bachelor's in Global Disease Biology and plans to start her career in health communications.