AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
Van Nuys, CA, Sept. 3, 2009 -- The past eight days have no doubt been a horrifying mix of emotions for the people in harm's way due to the Station fire. Thousands of people have been evacuated or are under threat of evacuation, and many have lost their homes in the blaze.
While the experience is stressful for humans, imagine what it's like for pets. While riding out the remainder of this devastating forest fire, keep in mind the following pet tips:
- Keep plenty of fresh water available at all times and don't be surprised if your pets are drinking more than normal. Smoke and ash in the air is naturally drying and for dogs, their heightened sense of smell has their noses working double-time. The act of scenting is very drying, causing an increased need for water. Be sure to provide extra opportunities for elimination to avoid accidents in the house.
- Pets are sensitive to our stress levels. If your pet seems "off," it may be that he's reacting to your stress level.
- Routine is comforting for pets. If you have evacuated with your pets, try and keep part of your normal routine intact. If your pets are used to eating or going for walks at a certain time, try to maintain these habits as much as possible.
- Expect behavioral changes. You may notice a regression in house training, even in adult dogs who have been house trained for years. This is a common response to stress. Address the problem by upping your level of management and supervision, treating your dog much like you did when he was a puppy. Attention-seeking behaviors such as barking or pawing at owners are also common. Calmly ignore unwanted behaviors and redirect your dog to something more appropriate, like chewing his bone. If you are working a behavior modification program for aggression, expect your dog to backslide at least a little bit and practice appropriate management techniques as necessary.
- Maintain "status quo" as much as possible. "Babying" a dog too much can actually increase stress levels by magnifying the fact that something is wrong. It's okay to reassure a worried dog so long as you do so calmly.
If you have not been directly impacted by the Station fire, use this as an opportunity to evaluate your own disaster preparedness plan, taking care to ensure that your pets will be adequately taken care of. Additionally, consider making a cash or in-kind donation to the Pasadena Humane Society or other area rescue group that has stepped in to house the hundreds of pets displaced by the fire.