- This post contains affiliate links. Read more here.
- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
As the hottest, driest days of summer roll around, seasonal wildfire smoke becomes an issue in many parts of the United States—raising questions about the health and safety implications for not just people but pets, too. Smoke inhalation in dogs is a problem as serious as it is for humans, which makes it a good idea to familiarize yourself with some tips, tricks, and signs to watch out for in your pup.
Luckily, many of the same precautions we’d take for ourselves apply to our furry family members. If you (and your dog) live in an area affected by wildfire smoke, doctors at Portland’s DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital have some good advice.
Safety Tips for Dogs When the Air Quality Is Poor
The biggest danger to your pup comes from fine particles, which can reach deep into the lungs and cause a variety of health issues, including burning eyes and chronic congestion. The first step in keeping your dog safe from smoke inhalation is to have a good idea of what’s in the air. During fire season, make a habit of watching the air quality in your area. If it reaches levels you wouldn’t want to breathe, then it’s time to keep your dog inside too.
Other precautions include
- Closing all windows
- Using air conditioning, if possible, to filter the air
- Keeping potty breaks short
- Avoiding long walks and other prolonged outdoor exercises
- Keeping your dog well hydrated
- Watching for signs of respiratory stress and eye inflammation—and if your pet shows symptoms, seeing a veterinarian immediately
Dogs Vulnerable to Respiratory Distress From Smoke Inhalation
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 experience acute illness as a result of poor air quality. These include
- Any dog with asthma or bronchitis
- Brachycephalic dogs like bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Pugs
- Puppies and senior dogs
Signs of Respiratory Distress in Dogs
Any of these symptoms indicate that smoke inhalation is a problem for your dog and may 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
- Swelling or inflammation of the mouth, eyes, skin, or upper airway
- Prolonged open-mouthed breathing
- Weakness or lethargy
- Uncoordinated walking/inability to stand
- Increased salivation
More Severe Side Effects of Smoke Inhalation in Dogs
While rare, these symptoms are particularly alarming. They’re more likely to show up if your dog is inhaling vast quantities of smoke or is in very close proximity to a fire.
- Disorientation or confusion
If your pet is experiencing any of these symptoms, especially breathing troubles, see your veterinarian or visit an emergency vet right away.
What About When Your Dog Has To Go Outside?
When circumstances force the occasional trip outside, it’s important to give your pet a thorough check once you’re back indoors. Vets recommend wiping their fur down, paying particular attention to their mouth and eyes, to remove ash or smoke particles.
In China, many dog owners have turned to air masks or “pollution masks” for their dogs to protect them from routinely heavy smog. While air masks are not typically as effective for humans (or dogs) with lots of facial hair, you can certainly try one, as some California dog owners did during last year’s wildfire season. This year has seen an uptick in the number of masks available to protect dogs from smoke inhalation, though finding a good option for your pooch can still be tricky. Effectiveness is directly related to fit—and your pup’s ability to tolerate a face mask long enough to make it useful.
Indoor Activities To Keep Your Dog Busy
If you live in an area affected by wildfire smoke, it’s a great time to focus on indoor activities. You could brush up on your dog’s training, try enrichment games, or get help from a local pet sitter or in-home daycare to keep your dog busy in the absence of outdoor walks.
Indoor “exercise” for your dog can include:
- Puzzle toys like the classic KONG or an IQ puzzle
- Fetch and tug
- Teaching tricks
- Brushing up on basic training
If you’re feeling ambitious, or if your dog is of the herding variety (like cattle dogs, shepherds, and collies), these activities take indoor games to the next level:
The Bottom Line
Stay safe out there! When the air quality is poor, keep your pup indoors as much as possible and watch for the signs of excessive smoke inhalation in dogs. Extra couch snuggles with your pet are never a bad idea, either. Just saying.