Protecting your pup from the hazards of wildfire smoke

Walking dog in smoke and haze

This summer, many people have been affected by the smoky haze from wildfires burning across the Western US and Canada. We all know that smoke is bad for us and is a leading cause of lung problems such as asthma and other respiratory infections. But, did you know that it affects your pets too?

Many breeds of dogs love to be outdoors and need a lot of physical activity to be healthy, but according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, wildfire smoke and other environmental hazards can affect their health in many of the same ways that it affects us humans. If the smoke and haze bothers you, it can bother your pet!

Here are some of the signs to watch out for:

  • Coughing and/or gagging
  • Open-mouthed and increased noise when breathing (not panting)
  • Watery, irritated eyes
  • Nasal discharge
  • Increased rate of breathing
  • Stumbling or disorientation
  • Fatigue, low energy, sleepiness
  • Weakness/lethargy
  • Reduced appetite
  • Increased salivation

So, how can you protect your pet?

  • When it is smoky and hazy, or when an air quality alert is in effect, limit your pet's outdoor time and activity to brief bathroom breaks.
  • Prepare a pet evacuation kit if you live in areas with high wildfire risk.
  • Prevent smoke buildup in your home by using an air cleaner and/or air conditioning, and make sure your HVAC filters have been replaced regularly.
  • Keep your pets well hydrated.
  • If air quality is very bad, you can even try using a protective mask, much like humans use to protect themselves from pollution or disease. One company makes a "snout mask" for pets, although we're not sure how effective or well-tolerated this would be for a dog. Might be worth a try in extreme cases!

And remember, if the smoke is bothering you, it's probably bothering your dog, so be smart, be safe, and opt to spend some quality time with your pup indoors!