How To Keep Your Dog Safe From The Dangers Of Wildfire Smoke
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.
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
Uncoordinated walking/unable to stand
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.
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:
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
Hitting up your treadmill for a “walkie”
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!