Fires And Floods: Preparing For A Natural Disaster When You Have A Dog & How To Help After Disaster Strikes

As a dog owner, you know your dog is part of the family, so you need to make sure you include him in your disaster preparation plans. You also need to learn a few basic ways you can help your pet if he does get caught in the middle of a fire or flood alongside you. Follow these tips on what you can do now to prepare for disaster and how to help your pet if he gets caught in the midst of one. 

1. Include Your Pet in Fire Evacuation Plans and Safety Drills

You should always have a plan in place for your family in case your home ever catches fire. The NFPA, or National Fire Protection Association, advises first drawing a map of your home. Then, draw two escape plans from each room. One route typically involves a window, as most rooms only have one doorway that may not be safe to escape from if the fire is right outside of it. 

Once you draw your plan, give a copy to each family member, and you should practice it regularly. Where does Fido fit into this? You obviously cannot expect your dog to follow a map. Instead, first simply make sure he is loose in the home during your fire drills and let him observe. Instruct family members to grab him on their way out of the home if possible (but remind them to NEVER put their lives in danger while doing so.) If he is ever confined to a crate, then tell everyone that if they cannot carry him out then to open his crate so he can find his own way out.

If he does not evacuate with the family, once everyone is outside his name should be called until he comes out. Dogs are very intelligent and will benefit from seeing the family evacuating. You may be surprised when after a few drills he begins evacuating with the family every time. 

It is also very important to have your dog micro-chipped, as this will help ensure he is returned to you after any disaster. Having a collar on him with your name and phone number will also help a kind stranger know who he belongs to if he does get lost or run away during his escape. 

How to help if he inhales smoke: If your dog shows any signs that he inhaled smoke during a fire, such as rapid breathing, vomiting, or a hoarse cough, then the best way you can help him is to take him immediately to the nearest vet hospital. Unfortunately, there are no home remedies to treat smoke inhalation. When firefighters arrive on the scene, they may be able to give him oxygen on the spot to help him. Even if his apparent condition improves after the oxygen is administered, that does not mean he can skip a trip to the vet. A veterinarian needs to examine him to see if his airways are damaged and make sure there is no fluid build-up in his lungs. 

Burns also require immediate veterinary treatment along with any other injuries he may have suffered while finding his way out of the home, such as jumping from a window. 

2. Know How to Help Him During Flooding

Your plan to keep your dog safe during flooding should depend on the source of the flood. If you live where hurricanes are common, the most important way you can protect your dog is to always evacuate when local authorities suggest to do so. Do not put your dog's life in danger by attempting to "ride out" a storm that could result in not only your death, but also your dogs. 

Also, in your emergency evacuation kit that you should have ready at all times, make sure to include about a two-week supply or more of any medications your pet takes, a two-week supply of dog food, and extra emergency water for your dog. 

If your home floods without warning, then the best thing you can do is keep your dog with you at all times. Do not put him in a crate or obstruct his ability to save himself in any other way. If he has to leave you to save himself or runs away in fear, his microchip and identification collar can help ensure you both reunite after danger is over. 

How to help if he is near-drowning: If your dog ends up underwater and unconscious, then once you pull him to safety, hold him upside down by his hind-legs for about 20 seconds while giving him a few good shakes. Then, if his heart is beating, administer respiration breaths by holding his mouth shut and blowing into his snout once every 4 seconds. If his heart is not beating, then perform full CPR by coupling respirations with chest compressions. 

After you perform emergency treatment, take your dog to the vet as soon as you safely can. Near-drowning can cause cerebral edema, lung collapse, and other health problems that will need diagnosis and further treatment from your veterinarian. 

Remember to always include your dog in your disaster preparation plans and drills and remember what to do if he does suffer injury during disaster. With practice and planning, you can increase his chances of survival after disaster strikes.