Vets are helping cats who escaped the fires in Oregon.

By Austin Cannon
September 14, 2020
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Animal hospitals in Oregon are treating pets, including many cats, injured in wildfires as their staff members also juggle evacuation orders and other fire-related concerns. 

Wildfires have swept across swaths of California, Oregon, and Washington over the past week, forcing thousands and thousands of people to abandon their homes or businesses. In Oregon along, the fires have burned more than 1 million acres, forced evacuation plans for more than 500,000 people, and left dozens dead

In southern Oregon, some animal hospitals have spent the past several days either evacuating or preparing to. The Southern Oregon Veterinary Speciality Center (SOVSC), for example, evacuated twice last week: in the early morning of Wednesday and then again later that same day. Another veterinary care center, All Creatures Animal Hospital in Eagle Point, wrote on Facebook that it was open but under a Level 2 evacuation order, meaning its staff needs to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Because of that, the hospital couldn’t let pets stay overnight. 

At least one animal care center, Phoenix Animal Hospital, was lost to a fire last week after the staff evacuated and got all their patients home. 

The Associated Press reports that the SOVSC over the weekend was caring for nearly a dozen cats who were burned or injured in the fires. One of SOVSC’s veterinarians, Rory Applegate, tells the AP the fires are taking a “huge emotional toll” on the staff who’ve had to care for the animals as they also worry about making sure their families stay safe. 

In a Youtube video posted Thursday, SOVSC veterinarian Adam Reiss walks viewers through how they are treating cats who were caught near the fires. Many of them sustained burns on their feet and faces, making them reluctant to move or eat, he says. 

Vets and staff try their best to manage each cat’s pain, keep their wounds clean, and make sure they’re hydrated. Some cats may even need oxygen after inhaling too much smoke, the AP reports. 

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5P48bKWiV4[/embed]

As Reiss spoke, SOVSC caretakers were treating a cat with burnt paws and likely a burnt mouth. The cat will likely need a few days of care.  

“If your cat looks anything like this, I highly recommend you come in,” he says. 

Shelters are posting some photos of the cats they’ve treated on social media, looking for owners. There’s a page dedicated to lost pets in California, too.   

How to Protect Your Pet from Wildfire Smoke

If you live near the wildfires, Pioneer Animal Hospital, in Oregon City, offers several tips to keep your dog or cat safe if a wildfire is nearby. You should be gone by the time any flames arrive—and if you have to evacuate for any disaster, you need to take your pet with you—but smoke from a fire miles away can be a problem, too. 

Smell smoke? Get your dogs and cats inside right away and close all the doors and windows. From there, keep your animals inside except for quick bathroom breaks, and wipe them off when they come back inside, the hospital says. Also make sure your pets have fresh water inside, and have saline solution or eye wash on hand to rinse out their eyes. 

Take your pet to a vet if she’s experiencing constant coughing or wheezing, difficulty breathing, lack of appetite, lethargy, or extreme eye irritation related to the smoke, Pioneer says.