Wildfire smoke and pet safety
With wildfires raging across the world, it is important to understand the dangers that wildfire smoke poses on our beloved animals. As people, we know to take steps to protect ourselves and our families from smoke inhalation but the same steps should be taken to protect our pets.
Here in Canada, many provinces are currently battling unprecedented wildfires – something that is becoming more and more prevalent in our communities. Smoke inhalation causes a plethora of health issues so it’s important to safeguard your pets if you are close to a fire zone. In this blog post we will dive into wildfire smoke and pet safety by understanding the issues that wildfire smoke poses, how to protect your pets and what to do if your pet is exposed.
What wildfire smoke does:
Toxic wildfire smoke is made up of irritants that consist of fine particulate matter, hazardous air pollutants, volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide. This can have many negative effects on your pets especially if they are older, younger, small in size and/or are living with pre-existing health conditions.
Causes health problems
When inhaled, wildfire smoke causes respiratory problems while also increasing levels of stress among your pets. A smaller pet does not have the same lung capacity as a bigger pet which means when exposed to wildfire smoke, the smaller pet will have a harder time breathing. In turn, this can have a very negative impact on their already delicate respiratory system.
Puts vulnerable animals at risk
Similar to babies and seniors, younger and older animals are also more vulnerable when it comes to the effects of wildfire smoke. Younger animals are not done developing which means their airways are smaller, making it harder for them to breathe. In older animals, their lung capacities could potentially be deteriorating. Inhalation of wildfire smoke could cause distress for these animals quicker than it would for a healthy average-aged pet.
Impacts pets with pre-existing conditions
Other vulnerable animals would be those living with pre-existing health conditions. If your pet has asthma, wildfire smoke can worsen their condition. In turn, this causes symptoms such as constant coughing, wheezing and breathing problems. If your pet is living with a heart condition, the toxins in wildfire smoke can worsen their cardiovascular health. And if your pet is exposed to wildfire smoke repeatedly, it can be the reason they develop a respiratory problem and/or worsened lung function.
How to protect your pets:
Firstly, it is important that you stay informed about wildfires burning in your area. Staying up to date through your local government’s website and reputable news sources will help you prepare yourself and your pets. If you are living somewhere that is not directly in a fire zone but there is one burning nearby, you are most likely going to experience the smoke. You can measure your area’s air quality through mobile apps and websites which can help you decide whether or not it’s safe to go outside.
Know when to stay inside
If the air quality is poor due to wildfire smoke, you will want to limit yours and your pets time outside. This is especially true during the hottest time of the day when smoke density is typically at its highest. Instead of your regular walk, opt for an energetic playtime to help get your pet energized while remaining indoors. If they have to go outside for a potty break, ensure they come inside right away when done. If you are forced to go outdoors with wildfire smoke present, give your veterinarian a call ahead of time as they can offer tailored advice for your pets, depending on their health and more.
Keep the smoke out
Be sure to take all steps necessary to keep wildfire smoke outside of your home. This means keeping doors and windows closed at all times as well as cleaning air conditioning filters at a more frequent rate than usual. If you are able to, invest in an air purification system to help filter out the toxic smoke particles from your home. This will keep your home a comfortable place for you and your pets.
If your pet is exposed to wildfire smoke:
While we do our best as pet parents to always protect our animals, things can happen. If your pet does inhale a substantial amount of wildfire smoke, knowing what to do next can help mitigate any risks. It’s critical that you understand the symptoms of smoke inhalation in your pet because they are not able to communicate to you if they are in distress.
The main indicator that your pet has been exposed to wildfire smoke is constant coughing and/or wheezing. This is a clear indication that your pet’s airways are irritated. It is also common for breathing difficulties to occur which includes rapid breathing, panting and/or irregular breathing patterns.
If your pet is experiencing watery eyes and a watery nose, this is also an indication of smoke inhalation. It is also common for pets to become lethargic when exposed to smoke as well as a loss in appetite.
What to do
If your pet does experience smoke inhalation, bring them inside as soon as possible and begin monitoring their symptoms. Keep track of any changes in behavior, breathing and any other conditions they may be experiencing. Provide plenty of fresh drinking water and a relaxed environment to ensure their stress levels are managed. Keep them calm by limiting their physical activity and consult your veterinarian.
Know when to seek help
If your pet is experiencing the symptoms we’ve listed above and they continue to persist, it’s time to take them to see your veterinarian. Doing so allows your pet access to a health assessment, potential treatment and gives you the ability to provide proper aftercare through the knowledge of a professional.
Understanding the dangers that wildfire smoke poses, how to limit your pet’s exposure and what to do if they are exposed will help ensure your pet’s safety during a wildfire crisis.