DAM Vets — the Oregon State University Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine Disaster Action Management Team — is dedicated to providing disaster response training and education to veterinarians, veterinary support staff and veterinary students. DAM Vets is part of a statewide coalition with the Oregon Department of Agriculture to coordinate veterinary disaster response and continue to develop and expand OVERT, the Oregon Veterinary Emergency Response Team.    

Learning Events

All Disasters Great and Small: Veterinary Perspectives in Disaster Response

Held Wednesday, April 20, 6-7:30 p.m. Pacific Time
 

The Oregon State University Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine, in partnership with the Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Veterinary Emergency Response Team, hosted this event to gather veterinarians, veterinary support staff and veterinary students interested in and willing to participate in coordinated disaster response efforts in Oregon.

Veterinarians Dr. Mary Whitlock and Dr. Pat Long, both OVERT members, shared their perspectives and experiences from previous disasters as well as offered guidance into how others can contribute and be involved in future endeavors. This event was the first of many planned events as we continue to expand and develop OVERT and disaster response training in Oregon.

This event counts for one hour of continuing education credit (not RACE® approved). Please contact Event and Alumni Relations Coordinator Sara Smith for CE credit.

Watch the recording.

Speaker bio: Pat Long, DVM

Dr. Pat Long is a practicing veterinarian in Linn County who has been a member of OVERT since its inception. He participated in many training events over the years and has been deployed to assist in requests for service during a variety of disasters. This has included the Super Storm Sandy shelter care (2012 - FEMA), avian influenza farm/barn clean up (2015 - USDA) and the California Camp Fire shelter care (2018 - OVERT).  

Speaker bio: Mary Whitlock, DVM

Dr. Mary Whitlock is a practicing veterinarian in Lane County who’s been a member of OVERT since 2008.  As a key member of the Lane County Animals in Disaster Task Force, she was instrumental in efforts to respond to the Holiday Farm Fire in 2020 and was also actively involved in animal response efforts during the 2018 Camp Fire. She and colleague Kathy Snell, DVM, were instrumental in drawing up Lane County’s Response Plan for Animals in Disaster which included a deployable disaster response trailer fully stocked with medical supplies.  

 

GIVE TO DISASTER RESPONSE

Gifts to the Dean's Fund for Disaster Response are used for the treatment and care of animals affected by disasters where our veterinarians play a critical role in helping these animals.  

 

Animal First Aid and Care

What to do: Run under cold water for at least 20 minutes. Evidence suggests that this can reduce pain and edema, reduce the depth of the burn, decrease the overall inflammatory response, improve the speed of wound healing and minimize scarring.

Pain management should be a priority: Treating pain early and aggressively has been shown to prevent psychological trauma and even to improve healing. A multimodal analgesic approach is recommended. 

What not to do: Treat with ice. Ice causes severe vasoconstriction and can even deepen the burn. 

Similar to humans, smoke exposure can have negative effects on animal health. Monitoring air quality with sites like airnow.gov, can help you make decisions about when to bring animals indoors, transport them, let them out or even potentially allow light exercise like walks. Owners should also remain cognizant of their own exposure to poor quality air during animal care activities.

Signs of smoke inhalation
  • Mild signs: coughing, snorting or sneezing with mild nasal discharge that is typically clear or may contain dust can occur even after short exposure. Animals will remain lively with normal behavior and appetite and no fever.
  • Severe signs: coughing, nasal discharge that is thick, cloudy, yellow or otherwise discolored, open mouth breathing or increased effort or rate of breathing, fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite can be seen.

Animals exposed to thick smoke and direct fire situations can develop severe thermal injury to their airways which can cause life threatening respiratory distress — animals in these situations should be monitored closely for signs of disease and veterinary assistance should be accessed. Animals with pre-existing problems such as asthma may also have disease signs exacerbated by poor air quality and may need veterinary attention to adjust medication regimens.

Steps to reduce air quality impact and provide respiratory support
  • If possible, bring animals inside into better quality air. This can be challenging particularly for livestock and horses but the barn may be better than outdoors, and box fans can be modified to form crude ventilation and filter systems. 
  • Avoid exercising animals in poor air quality conditions. Exercise can greatly enhance the amount of air moving through the respiratory tract and increases exposure to harmful.
  • For dogs and cats, use indoor play and distractions if possible to try to reduce boredom and stress from confinement.
  • For livestock and horses, reducing dust sources by moistening hay, watering yards and arenas, cleaning stalls when animals are absent and avoiding dusty bedding such as straw is important. Watering pastures in areas with ash accumulation can also help. Ideally, if pasture is a food source and obviously ash contaminated, supplemental feeding with hay is advisable, largely because the pasture may have reduced palatability.
  • Ensure clean water is provided daily and monitored for ash and other contamination.
Additional management steps
  • It may be appropriate to have respiratory vaccines up to date if animals are likely to enter a commingling situation in evacuation settings; this determination should be made with your veterinarian.
  • Nebulization is being used by some horse owners. It is important to recognize that many substances can be harmful when administered by this route, and sharing equipment between animals can propagate the spread of infectious disease. The decision to nebulize should be made in concert with your veterinarian, and it is most likely to be useful in horses with clinical signs of severe respiratory disease. The likelihood of benefit to otherwise healthy horses is low, and risks are present. Also, a study of sustained wildfire smoke inhalation in Canada in 2018 showed no benefit to systemic corticosteroid treatment in horses; the most important aspect for improvement in respiratory function was improvement in air quality.
  • Be aware that during periods of sustained confinement with limited exercise, many animals will likely need adjustments to their diet to avoid rapid weight gain, and they will also lose athletic fitness. When they return to exercise once air quality improves, gradual adjustments to their exercise and diet should be made to help them adapt appropriately.
  • Horses returning to exercise that seem healthy may require at least two weeks of rest or more to allow respiratory healing, those that have had evidence of respiratory disease as a result of smoke exposure might require four to six weeks of healing time. All horses should have a careful return to exercise over time. Some horses may show chronic respiratory signs of an asthma-like condition after sustained smoke exposure — seek veterinary advice if abnormalities such as persistent coughing at rest or during work, persistent nasal discharge, or unexpected exercise intolerance are seen.

Expertise in the News

On the ground at the evac centers with Dr. Kate Schoenhals  

Media contact: Jens Odegaard, director of marketing and communications, jens.odegaard@oregonstate.edu or 541-737-3844.