On cold days, there’s arguably nothing better than languishing in front of a roaring fireplace, surrounded by our nearest and dearest (vegan s’mores optional). For many many of us, the experience is enriched by having our companion animals by our side. Just like humans, cats and dogs love the feeling of warmth on a chilly night, and often make a point to snuggle up close to the hearth. And while it’s perfectly acceptable for animals to enjoy some time by the fire, pet guardians should be mindful and take extra safety precautions when sparking potentially dangerous flames. Depending on your pet’s activity and curiosity levels, fireplaces and other heating devices can pose a significant danger for cats and dogs that like to play or are keen on investigating anything and everything.

This winter, take a proactive approach to your fireside endeavors. The following tips with provide you with the know-how to enjoy time in front of the fireplace while also protecting your furry friends.

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1. Training Comes First

First and foremost, it is important to institute some rules so that your pet can learn boundaries when approaching a lit fireplace. While some dogs and cats know not to go near hot objects, others may gravitate toward them out of curiosity and interest. It is important for all animals to learn that a fireplace is not for play, and that they should always keep a safe distance.

2. Don’t Play Near Fire

Even if your dog or cat knows not to closely inspect a fireplace, he might inadvertently be at risk for serious burns if he uses the area around it for play. Wagging tails, long fur, and sensitive paws are just some exposed areas on an animal that might burn during a play session. Even tossing treats or toys near a fire might lead to an unsafe situation. If your pet wishes to play, make sure to confine the play to another area of your house.

3. Better Safe Than Sorry: Go for a Gate

If you plan to use your fireplace frequently this winter, make sure that it is gated off at all times, even when it is not in use. This is a preventative measure that will ensure your dogs and cats have no opportunity to harm themselves. Fireplace elements like ashes and pebbles are also dangerous if ingested, so make sure to keep the barrier up throughout the day. Depending on your fireplace, you may have a built-in shield; if not, make sure to have one installed. Avoid installing anything made of glass, as animals that like to see their reflected may burn themselves when they make contact. Consider adding a child lock on the fireplace doors for extra security.

4. Don’t Forget the Damper!

Dampers serve the purpose of containing heat when a fireplace is not in use and releasing smoke when it is in use. If a damper is closed while a fire is lit, anyone currently in the house will be exposed to carbon monoxide, which can be deadly to both pets and humans. Always check to make sure the fireplace damper is completely open before lighting a fire. Make sure your home is equipped with at least one carbon monoxide detector.

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5. Keep a Close Watch

Pets can be quick; they’re experts at stealing food off the tabling, unrolling toilet paper, and chewing your shoes to a pulp. So, whenever a fireplace is in use, make sure you are monitoring where your dog or cat is at all times. It takes just a few seconds of distraction for an animal to slide into the flames. If you need to step away for a few minutes, either take your pet with you or ask someone else to monitor him.

Image source: Sarah Ridgely/Flickr

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