Keeping your pet safe from wildfire smoke

Pet owner walking dog in smoky conditions

Keeping your pet safe from wildfire smoke

As smoky skies from wildfires drives air pollution to record-high levels, pet guardians need to take particular care of their furry family members. If you can see or feel the effects of smoke yourself, you also should take precautions to keep your animals safe.

Animals with cardiovascular or respiratory disease are especially at risk from smoke and should be closely watched during all periods of poor air quality. If any of your animals are experiencing signs of smoke or dust irritation, please consult a veterinarian.

Boundary Bay Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Hospital is open 24/7 and VECCS Level 1 certified to handle even the most critical respiratory emergencies. Our full-time emergency and critical care specialists have advanced equipment such as mechanical ventilation and high flow oxygen that can be used in the most serious respiratory emergencies.

Signs of possible smoke or dust irritation in animals:

  • Coughing or gagging
  • Difficulty breathing, including open mouth breathing and increased noise when breathing
  • Eye irritation and excessive watering
  • Inflammation of throat or mouth
  • Nasal discharge
  • Asthma-like symptoms
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Disorientation or stumbling
  • Behaviour changes such as reduced appetite and/or thirst

Tips to protect pets

  • Keep pets indoors as much as possible, and keep your windows shut. The best way to protect your pets is to limit their exposure to the smoky outdoors until air pollution return to safe levels.
    • Birds are particularly susceptible and should not be allowed outside when smoke or particulate matter are present.
    • Let dogs and cats outside only for brief bathroom breaks if air quality alerts are in effect.
  • Avoid intense outdoor exercise during periods of poor air quality. Exercise pets when dust and smoke has settled.
  • Use filtration like a HEPA air filter, but no pet masks – they make it more difficult for pets to breathe.
  • Keep the animal’s space well-ventilated – The danger to animals comes from not only the duration of the exposure to polluted air but also the intensity of the pollution. If animals are in a semi-indoor area such as a pen or coop that can be ventilated, aim for an “air change” every 15 minutes.
  • Keep animals hydrated – Smoky air can also be intensely dry, and can dry out mucus membranes, which puts the lining of the respiratory tract at greater risk.
  • Have a pet evacuation kit ready, and include your animals in your disaster preparedness planning.

 

Sources:

https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/wildfire-smoke-and-animals

https://www.albertaspca.org/smoke-pets/#:~:text=Companion%20Animals%20%26%20Smoke,and%20keep%20your%20windows%20shut.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/home/2023/06/08/pet-wildfire-smoke/

https://www.cbc.ca/news/climate/wildfire-smoke-dog-pet-1.6849608

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