Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Safety Tips for Pets Who Love Heaters and Fireplaces

By Tamara McRill

When I was growing up, the merry crackling of a fire always seemed to entice my pets to curl up near the hearth and take a nap. Now that I’m older and, sadly, without a fireplace, I’ve noticed that my dogs are just as attracted to heaters on a cold winter day. Snuggling next to the heat can be comforting for pets, but it can also be dangerous.

That doesn’t mean we have to ban our furry friends from one of their favorite winter pastimes. All we need to do is make sure safety precautions are taken, so sitting near a fire or heater can be enjoyed without any disastrous results. Here are some tips to consider:

Fire and Fur Don’t Mix

For obvious reasons, we need to take precautions to make sure our cats and dogs don’t get singed by errant embers. Fireplaces will need a fireguard screen to make sure any popping flames don’t shoot out too far. This will also prevent wagging tails from entering flame territory.

Dampers and Detectors

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be deadly to pets and humans, not to mention it can cause health issues from exposure. This is especially a concern if you have a gas fireplace. If your damper is closed, then all of the carbon monoxide comes back into the room and your pet, being the closest, will be the first one affected.

In addition to making sure your fireplace damper is properly adjusted, you should also place carbon monoxide detectors near the fireplace and throughout your home. This is so important to check every time you turn on your gas fireplace. Especially given that a gas fireplace burns so cleanly that you likely won’t even notice if the damper is open or not.

Regular fireplaces should also be adequately vented, so smoke and carcinogens don’t get in your cat or dog’s lungs. It’s a good idea to keep any heat vents near your fireplace closed when it is lit, so nothing is spread through the home heating system. Also be sure to check the batteries on smoke alarms, to make sure they are in working order.

Gate It Off

Investigative noses and indiscriminate palettes have gotten many cats and dogs into some not-so-safe predicaments. You don’t even need to have your fireplace lit for a pet to get into a potentially dangerous situation. Ashes, pebbles and other fireplace elements all arouse their curiosity. The next thing you know, you’ll have an ashy mess to clean up or a trip to the vet if they ingest something.

If you have a dog that’s a licker, he could even get burned on a space heater. It’s best to make sure your fireplaces and heaters are completely gated off from pets that have just a wee bit too much curiosity.

However, that’s easier said than done, if you have a cat determined to get near the fireplace. Your best bet in this situation is to just make sure there isn’t anything harmful they can get into.

No Play Near Heat 

Accidents happen during boisterous playtime, and our aim isn’t always true. Playing near a fireplace or heater can result in your pet sliding into it and getting burned or diving in after a toy. It’s best to avoid playtime in a room where a fireplace is lit or a heater is on. This includes tossing treats to your pets. I know our dog Cody would risk a few singes for a tasty CANIDAE dog treat!

Keep Track of Time

We have to be constantly vigilant with Cody around heaters, because he will back right up to them. So he’s not allowed to sit next to them. You may have a more responsible pet who likes the warmth and stays at a safe distance. (Lucky you!) Depending on how close they are and how hot the fireplace or heater is, you’ll still have to make sure they aren’t getting too hot and limit their exposure. Besides the risk of your pet being overheated, they can also get a burn, not unlike a sunburn.

It’s easier to spot too pink or red skin on a lightly colored cat or dog, or one that has sparser hair. It’s the darker colored ones or pets with thicker coats that you can’t see the redness on that you’ll have to be extra cautious with. Be sure to touch them every once in awhile, to make sure their fur or skin doesn’t feel too hot. It really shouldn’t feel more than pleasantly warm. It’s a good idea to do this no matter what kind of pet you have in front of the fire.

Do you have a cat or dog that loves to snuggle next to the fireplace or heater? How do you keep them safe?

Cat photo by cyrusbulsara
Dog photo by Phil Gradwell

Read more articles by Tamara McRill


  1. Really good advice. We don't have a fireplace and all the cats get on my warm bed with me at night and then of course I cannot move. But those are some mighty good points.

  2. Those animal photos are adorable Tamara! I especially love the last one where he looks incredibly happy. Its funny how we forget that even though they're covered in fur, the warmth of a fire or heater is still enjoyed during the winter times. I've always felt uncomfortable having any animals near a heat source but ill just have to think of something to create a small barrier.

    Thanks for the post and the awesome photos!

  3. Excellent tips! We have a gas fireplace and we realized we don't have a carbon monoxide detector. We're gonna make the mom go buy one right away!

  4. Interesting information !
    Since my pawrent did renovation, we didn't have fire place anymore. We use dutch heating instead. and now our weather is opposite the rest of the world. We are heading in summer. And now the weather is so hot ! We even got bushfire which is pretty bad. In the hot day like 40 degree +, my pawrents will keep me indoor. and I drink lots of water. Really good post.
    Thank you


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