How Wildfire Smoke Affects Your Pets

It’s that time of year again when wildfires start to run rampant. I live in California and have had my fair share of wildfires. Thankfully, I’ve only had to evacuate twice. But even when we’re allowed to stay home amidst a nearby wildlife, the thick smoke can really put a damper on things.

In 2020, the entire West Coast was ravaged by wildfires (on top of the COVID-19 pandemic). One wildfire near my city wasn’t expected to reach town, but we could all feel its effects.

The sky from Fort Dick, California in September 2020.
Photo: Malorie Thompson

The sky was an inky red in the middle of the day. Ash coated cars, homes, and everything else. But it was really the smoke that was the greatest cause for alarm.

Now, the East Coast is experiencing the realities of wildfires. Over a dozen U.S. states are being impacted by the Canadian wildfires happening just across the border.

According to NBC Los Angeles, the smoke from the wildfires has already made a huge impact on residents of the East Coast. It’s led to the cancelation of sports events, school field trips, and Broadway plays, among other things. Local residents in New York and surrounding states aren’t used to living under the orange haze of a wildfire, and it’s taking a toll on the people.

Photo: Pixabay/Saiho

But it’s not just people who are impacted by wildfire smoke. Wildlife and pets are as well!

The New York Times reports that New York City is encouraging people to stay indoors if possible and wear a mask if going outside. The city even enacted a “work suspension” for carriage horses, citing unsafe conditions.

Unfortunately, many pets and animals don’t have an option to stay inside or go outside.

A 2022 study titled, “A review of the effects of wildfire smoke on the health and behavior of wildlife,” explains: “Wildfire smoke also sickens non-human animals, as illustrated by numerous case studies…like people, animals can suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning, thermal and chemical damage to lung tissue, and greater susceptibility to respiratory disease as a result of smoke inhalation.”

Photo: Pixabay/Myléne

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “Smoke from wildfires and other large blazes affects pets, horses, livestock and wildlife. If you can see or feel the effects of smoke yourself, you also should take precautions to keep your animals – both pets and livestock – safe.”

If your pet has been exposed to smoke, you can look out for the following warning signs:

– Coughing or gagging
– Difficulty breathing
– Eye irritation
– Inflammation of throat or mouth
– Nasal discharge
– Asthma-like symptoms
– Increased breathing rate
– Fatigue or weakness
– Disorientation or stumbling
– Reduced appetite and/or thirst

When in doubt, consult a veterinarian.

Photo: Pixabay/Nicholas Demetriades

The AVMA offers the following tips to keep pets safe:

1. Keep pets indoors as much as possible, and keep your windows shut.

2. Birds are particularly susceptible and should not be allowed outside when smoke or particulate matter are present.

3. Let dogs and cats outside only for brief bathroom breaks if air quality alerts are in effect.

4. Avoid intense outdoor exercise during periods of poor air quality. Exercise pets when dust and smoke has settled.

Take action to reduce the risk of these devastating fires by signing a petition here!

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