By Dr. Bruce Little
With the ever-expanding incidence of wildfires across much of the western portion of the United States, it’s a good idea to review actions that can be taken to protect pets from smoke and debris. All pet owners should prepare an Emergency Preparation and Evacuation Plan before disaster strikes. That plan should address smoke inhalation prevention and include all pets from dogs and cats, to horses, backyard chickens, and other farm animals.
Unhealthy air quality can take its toll on our pets, sometimes causing serious health problems. Brachycephalic or short-nosed breeds such as Pugs or Persian cats, very young or very old pets, and those that have existing health problems like asthma or bronchitis are especially vulnerable. Smoke inhalation can cause confusion, disorientation, fainting, lethargy and seizures. Pet birds are also particularly vulnerable to unhealthy air quality. It’s best to remove them from the tainted area if possible. Keep watch of farm animals, who are less likely to exhibit signs because they’re housed in dusty conditions and eat dusty hay under normal circumstances.
Here are some actions you can take to protect your pets:
- Keep pets indoors with the windows closed.
- Use air conditioning to further filter the air.
- Outdoor bathroom breaks should be kept as short as possible.
- Avoid prolonged exercise or excitement.
- Keep pets well hydrated with fresh water several times per day.
- Look for signs of respiratory stress and eye inflammation.
- For homes that are smoky indoors due to the proximity to fires, consider keeping pets at a boarding facility or with a friend or family member who lives away from the area.
Signs of respiratory stress include:
- Difficulty breathing or labored breathing with occasional gasps for air.
- Open-mouthed breathing, especially in cats.
- Unusual or excessive coughing, sneezing, drooling, vomiting or loss of appetite.
- Increased salivation.
- Swelling or inflammation of the mouth, eyes, skin or upper airway.
- Weakness or lethargy.
- Uncoordinated walking or inability to stand.
Owners should seek immediate veterinary care for their pets if they show any of the above symptoms. Find a veterinarian today.