Port Coquitlam has just become the fourth area municipality to adopt a new piece of equipment that can help save pets during house fires.

Mountain View Veterinary Hospital donated four pet oxygen masks to the force during a special presentation Thursday, and taught firefighters how to use the specialized equipment.

They come in three sizes – small, medium and large -- and can be used on dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, ferrets and even birds. The smallest size could be fitted to help a small bird, while the largest size could work on a small horse, according to veterinary staff.

The masks, which hook into the fire department’s existing oxygen supply system on its trucks, fit seamlessly over the pets’ noses to create a better seal and more efficient oxygen delivery system.

“With dogs, they have the longer, more pronounced noses, so using a human mask isn’t going to give a proper seal,” said Matt Ferguson, the vet hospital’s director.

As pets have a tendency to seek a hiding place during a fire or emergency, the vet clinic said the masks could significantly increase the animal’s chance of survival after smoke inhalation.

Fire Chief Nick Delmonico said with a pet population of up to 18,000 in the Metro Vancouver municipality, the masks will be an invaluable tool in his department’s toolkit.

“Having that ability to not struggle to find a way to provide something for a pet in distress is really important to us,” he said.

“Anything we can do to relieve the stress of a pet in an emergency also relieves the stress on the owner and the other people involved.”

The vet clinic raised money for the masks by doing nail trims by donation. The kits, which include one hookup in each size, cost $130 apiece.

Langley city and township, as well as Abbotsford, have also agreed to carry the specialized pet masks on their trucks. On Vancouver Island, Victoria adopted the technology as well.