How to protect your pet when wildfire smoke creates poor air quality

While wildfire smoke is a known hazard to humans, it can also harm our furry friends.

Microscopic particles from wildfire smoke can cause serious health problems for animals, sometimes causing more harm than in humans, so pet owners should keep a close eye on their furry family members when wildfire smoke causes air quality to plummet.

Here are some symptoms to look out for and recommendations on how to keep your pets safe during poor air quality conditions:

How pets suffer from poor air quality caused by wildfire smoke


A pedestrian walks her dog as smoke from Canada wildfires blankets New York, US, on June 7, 2023. Photographer: Alex Kent/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Smoke from wildfires can irritate your pet’s eyes and respiratory tract, and in some cases can lead to more serious conditions. According to the EPA, some of the most vulnerable pet populations are those suffering with heart or lung disease, along with pets who are older.

The EPA noted the following signs to look out for in your pets, and to call your veterinarian if your pets exhibit any of these symptoms:

  • Red or watery eyes.
  • Nasal discharge.
  • Inflammation of throat or mouth.
  • Reluctance to eat hard foods.
  • Reduced appetite or thirst.
  • Coughing or gagging.
  • Trouble breathing, such as open-mouth breathing, more noise when breathing or fast breathing.
  • Fatigue or weakness, disorientation, uneven gait, or stumbling.


How to keep your pets safe during unhealthy air quality levels


FILE - Kittens are pictured in a file image dated July 27, 2010. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

High levels of smoke are dangerous for your pets so try to reduce their exposure to it as much as possible, according to the EPA:

  • Keep indoor pets indoors with doors and windows closed.
  • Bring outdoor pets into a room with good ventilation, such as a utility room or garage. Be sure to keep pesticides and other hazardous products often found in such rooms out of reach from the pets.
  • If pets must go outside for bathroom breaks, keep their outing brief and then wipe down their fur with a wet cloth when they come back inside, recommends FOX meteorologist Craig Herrera.
  • Keep indoor air clean by using a portable air cleaner or filter and by not doing activities, such as burning candles or using a fireplace, that may introduce more particles into the air.


How to prepare your pets for wildfire season and other poor air quality days


Smoke from wildfires in Canada spread badly at Times Square, known as the World Capital of New York, United States on June 7, 2023. (Photo by Eren Abdullahogullari/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Many Americans, such as those in the Pacific Northwest, experience smoke from wildfire season nearly every year. However, others may not be as familiar with the events and may find themselves unprepared in the relatively rare event they experience wildfire smoke. 

The EPA recommends the following tips on how to protect yourself and your pets before wildfire season:

  • Buy high-efficiency filters for central air conditioning system or a room unit to capture fine particles from smoke.
  • Create a clean room in your house with a portable air cleaner.
  • Keep a close eye on air quality levels and alerts in your area.


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