Winter Pet Fire Safety

Every fall we get a big pile of wood and stack it in the garage for use during the winter — we don’t heat with it, we just love having a roaring fire in the hearth on a cold winter’s day or a chilly fall afternoon.

Along with a beautiful fire to read by, however, come some risks to you and your pets. Below are some tips on how to keep your pets safe from fire-related dangers during the winter. Follow them and you’ll make sure that you emerge into spring unscathed!

The message here is twofold — don’t let your pets get burned and don’t give them the opportunity to start a fire in your home.

Dogs are like permanent toddlers — always wanting to know, “Hey, what’s that smoky flamey thing there?” and they can get into a whole mountain of trouble before you know it — trouble that can lead to pain, injury and a heap of high veterinary bills and even the loss of your home if they start a fire.

Here are a few winter pet fire safety tips:

  • Secure the hearth. Make sure matches, lighters and fireplace tools are put out of your pet’s reach and make sure you have a good screen in place to keep pets (and kids) out.
  • Make sure the fire is out. Always check this before you head out and leave pets at home.
  • Extinguish any open flames around the house. Pets are very curious and will investigate cooking appliances, candles or a fire in the fireplace. Remember, toddlers grow up, but pets never do!
  • Some pets love to sleep under heaters and radiators. These can cause severe burns if your pet’s skin comes in contact with them for long enough. Block off the area or provide a comfy bed far away from the heat source.
  • Pet-proof your home. Walk around your home and look for potential trouble where pets might accidentally start a fire. For example, can they knock a curtain into a candle? Can a tail swoop across a candle or potpourri warmer?
  • Practice your escape with pets in mind. Keep a leash or a carrier at the ready in case you have to make a speedy exit — near the door is best.
  • Affix a “Pet Alert Window Cling.” Attach the sticker to a front window or door to alert firefighters that pets are inside. You can obtain a free window cling here. Do the same for your kids and their bedroom windows.

I’ve only seen a few burn cases in my 18 years as an emergency vet, but a few stand out: a little Dachshund with the cosmically appropriate name of Chili. Chili was off for a camping weekend with his family when he decided to make a running jump into the ashes of the prior night’s campfire — ashes that looked grey and cool on the top, but hid a layer of red embers underneath. “Chili” became “fire-roasted Chili” in the blink of an eye and needed a few weeks of treatment to get his (thankfully only second degree) burns to heal.

So learn from the lesson of Chili and take care when you have an open flame. Make sure that your pets stay well away from the fire. And make sure there is no way that your pets can start a fire in your home. You’ll be glad you did! Pet Health Central cares about you and your pets — we want you to be safe!

Have you ever had any incidents where you pets came into contact with a fire? Have you ever had your pets come close to starting a fire in your home? Share your experiences in the comments section and tell us about it.

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