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  • Writer's pictureKara Dyko

How To Keep Your Dog Safe From The Dangers Of Wildfire Smoke

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

Many cities and towns across the PNW have been experiencing poor air quality due to numerous active wildfires. As a community of dog lovers we wanted to share our experience and best practices on how to protect your Boxer’s health and keep those nubs a wigglin’.

While wind patterns and fire behavior can change rapidly, it’s important to keep these tips in mind throughout the fire season.

Poor air quality is a concern for our dogs just as it is for us. Luckily, the same precautions you’d take for yourself apply to our furry family members as well. If you (and your dog) live in an area affected by #wildfire smoke, please continue the scroll.

How to keep animals safe

There are many guidelines available for people when air quality is poor, but very little information for pet owners.

The air quality index (AQI) is used in the United States and Australia. The AQI is a single number presented on a scale of 0-500, ranging from excellent air quality to the most hazardous air pollution. Canada uses the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI), using a scale from 1 to 10.

Based on guidelines from multiple regulatory bodies and associations, we recommend limiting outdoor exercise in animals when smoke is visible. Moderate to intense exercise should be reduced when there is a high or very high risk rating for multiple days in a row to reduce exposure to small particulate matter. The environment matters, however. For example, a dog in a tightly sealed home will have less exposure to airborne irritants than a dog used to wandering around a farm or orchard.

The Dangers of Wildfire Smoke

The biggest danger to your dogs when breathing wildfire smoke comes from fine particles, which can reach deep into the lungs and cause a variety of health issues from burning eyes to chronic congestion. To keep your dog safe from the smoke-laden air, the best thing to do is keep them inside! But that’s not all.

  • Keep pets indoors with windows closed

  • Limit and supervise poddy breaks

  • Use air conditioning, if possible, to filter the air

  • Keep potty breaks short

  • Avoid long walks and other prolonged outdoor exercises

  • Keep pets well hydrated

  • Watch for signs of respiratory stress and eye inflammation

Dogs susceptible to respiratory distress

Just as young children and senior citizens are more at risk for harm from breathing wildfire smoke, so too are certain dogs more likely to suffer from poor air quality. This includes:

  • Any dog with asthma or bronchitis

  • Brachycephalic dogs like Boxers, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Pugs

  • Puppies and senior dogs

Signs of respiratory distress in pets

Any of these symptoms warrant an immediate trip to the vet. Don’t hesitate to take your dog in if you’re concerned.

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Unusual or excessive coughing, sneezing, vomiting or loss of appetite. This can include reverse sneezing attacks.

  • Swelling or inflammation of the mouth, eyes, skin or upper airway

  • Open-mouthed breathing (especially in cats)

  • Reduced appetite and thirst

  • Weakness/lethargy

  • Uncoordinated walking/unable to stand

  • Increased salivation

More severe side effects of smoke inhalation in dogs

While rare, these symptoms are particularly alarming. These are more likely to show up if your dog is inhaling vast quantities of smoke or is in very close proximity to a fire.

  • Disorientation/confusion

  • Fainting

  • Sleepiness

  • Seizures

If your pet is experiencing any of these symptoms, especially breathing trouble, it’s always best to gain veterinary advice and assistance as soon as possible.

Indoor activities to keep your dog busy

If you live in an area affected by wildfire smoke, it’s a great time to brush up your dog’s training, try enrichment games.

Indoor “exercise” for your dog can include:

  • Hide-and-seek

  • Puzzle toys like the classic KONG or an IQ puzzle

  • Fetch and tug

  • Teaching tricks training

  • Brushing up on basic training

If you’re feeling ambitious, or your dog is of the herding variety (hello, cattle dogs, shepherds, and collies), these activities take indoor games to the next level:

  • Flirt pole sessions

  • Nosework

  • Obstacle courses

  • Indoor agility

  • Hitting up your treadmill for a “walkie”

Bottom Line

Stay safe out there! When the air quality is poor, keep your dog indoors as much as possible. Listen for Air Quality reports, so you can make an informed decision about when it is safe to exercise your dog(s) again. Until then, snag some extra snuggles and slobbery kisses!


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