Wildfires have become a frequent occurrence in many parts of the world, resulting in devastating consequences for both humans and the environment. While we often focus on the immediate impact on our homes, health, and communities, it is crucial not to overlook the potential harm inflicted upon our furry companions. The silent threat of wildfire smoke can have severe effects on the health and well-being of our pets.
Recently my eldest dog Moose was taken to the vet for breathing concerns and my mind was racing. He is 13 years old, so there are numerous reasons why his breathing could sound so ragged and strained. After all the x-rays and bloodwork, it turns out his harsh breathing was due to inflamed and irritated bronchi from the smoke of the nearby wildfires. I am glad there is nothing wrong with him (beyond age-related issues), but frustrated with myself that I did not consider the smoke as the source of his discomfort. So, because of this situation we are going to explore the various ways in which wildfire smoke affects our beloved animals and discuss how we can protect them during these challenging times.
Similar to humans, pets are susceptible to respiratory issues caused by inhaling smoke-filled air. The microscopic particles and toxic gasses present in wildfire smoke can irritate their airways, leading to coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Animals with pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma or bronchitis, are particularly vulnerable. Prolonged exposure to smoke can exacerbate these conditions and even result in severe respiratory distress, requiring immediate veterinary attention.
Birds are especially susceptible to damage from smoke and poor air quality because of their anatomy, as they do not have lungs in the same way we, or our pets, do. Instead, they have static lungs and breath unidirectionally by breathing with air sacs throughout their body.
A tip for our feathered friends who may face evacuation: grab a towel, sheet, or a pillowcase for a smaller bird carrier. Moisten the fabric and cover the carrier, the water makes the holes between the fibers smaller so it catches more smoke particulates.
Eye and Nose Irritation:
The eyes and noses of our beloved friends are sensitive to the irritants present in wildfire smoke, just like us. Pets exposed to smoky environments may experience redness, watery eyes, nasal discharge, and sneezing. Persistent exposure can cause inflammation and discomfort, making it difficult for them to eat, sleep, and engage in regular activities.
Aggravation of Cardiovascular Conditions:
Wildfire smoke contains a cocktail of harmful substances, including fine particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds. When pets inhale these pollutants, they can enter their bloodstream and negatively impact their cardiovascular system. Animals with pre-existing heart conditions may experience increased strain on their heart, leading to reduced oxygen supply and potential heart failure. It is crucial to be vigilant and monitor pets with known heart issues during periods of intense wildfire activity.
Negative Effects on Immune System:
The presence of toxic chemicals in wildfire smoke can weaken the immune system of our pets, leaving them more susceptible to respiratory infections, allergies, and other illnesses. Additionally, prolonged exposure to smoke can increase oxidative stress within their bodies, causing cellular damage and inflammation. This compromised immune response can make it challenging for pets to recover from existing health conditions or fight off new infections.
Apart from the physical implications, the upheaval caused by wildfires can lead to emotional distress in pets. Evacuations, separation from their families, and exposure to unfamiliar environments can trigger anxiety, fear, and behavioral changes. Recognizing the signs of stress in our pets, such as restlessness, loss of appetite, excessive barking, or withdrawal, is crucial. Providing them with a safe space, comforting reassurance, and engaging activities can help alleviate their emotional turmoil.
Protecting Your Pets:
Stay informed: Keep yourself updated on wildfire conditions in your area and follow evacuation orders or air quality advisories issued by local authorities. Make sure to have a Go-Bag with all their medications, paperwork, food, litter, etc. for at least three days, and a prepared carrier in case of evacuation.
Create a safe haven: Designate a clean and smoke-free area in your home where your pets can seek refuge. Use air purifiers or consider creating a DIY air-filtered space to minimize their exposure to smoke. You can also add natural respiratory and immune boosting supplements to your pet’s diet to offer them additional support, such as Lung Care from NaturPet (dogs and cats) or Phyto Synergy from Adored Beast.
Limit outdoor activities: Reduce the time spent outdoors during periods of poor air quality. Take shorter walks when the smoke is thinnest, or engage in indoor play sessions to minimize smoke inhalation. Utilize puzzle games, snuffle mats, or indoor agility kits to keep your dog entertained.
Conult your veterinarian: Seek guidance from your veterinarian regarding specific precautions and possible interventions based on your pet's breed, age, and health conditions if you are noticing any changes in their behaviour.
Stay calm and provide reassurance: During stressful situations, pets look to their owners for comfort. Remain calm, offer soothing words, and provide a familiar and secure environment to help them cope with anxiety. The more anxious of our beloved animals may benefit from anxiety reducing supplements, such as CBD, Bach Flowers, or for dogs and cats Adaptil and Feliway.
The devastating effects of wildfire smoke on pets are often overlooked but can have severe consequences on their health and well-being. Understanding the various ways in which smoke can impact our pets and taking proactive measures to protect them is crucial. By staying informed, creating a safe haven, limiting outdoor activities, consulting with veterinarians when needed, and providing reassurance, we can help our furry friends navigate through these challenging times. As responsible pet owners, it is our duty to ensure that our pets are safe and protected during periods of wildfire activity.