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June 07, 2023

How to protect pets from wildfire smoke

As smoke from Canada pollutes air in the northeast U.S., experts suggest keeping animals indoors

Pets Safety
wildfire pet safety JC Gellidon/Unsplash

Experts suggest keeping pets indoors to limit harmful exposure to wildfire smoke.

Wildfire smoke from Canada has polluted the air in several U.S. states this week, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, causing advisories to be issued across the region alerting people of unhealthy air quality.

As humans are being warned to take precautions, like staying indoors and wearing N95 masks when outside, there are also protective measures that should be taken to ensure furry friends stay safe in the smoky air. 

MORE: Philly residents urged to stay indoors due to poor air quality caused by Canadian wildfires

Chiefly, pet owners should limit animals' time outside, besides necessary bathroom breaks.

"Keep walks and bathroom breaks to a minimum and ensure pets are indoors in well-circulating air," the team from Heart + Paw, which has several veterinary centers in Philly, wrote on Instagram.

If pets do need to go outside to relieve themselves, they should do so quickly and should not partake in any form of exercise.

“The air we breathe, pets feel it too ... You want to be in and out,” Dr. Jerry Klein, the chief veterinary officer at the American Kennel Club, told The New York Times.

Besides potty breaks, pets should be kept indoors, in a room with an air purifier if possible, with windows shut. 

Tiny particles from wildfire smoke can irritate pets' eyes and respiratory tracts, and in some cases can cause serious health problems.

During air quality advisories, pet owners should keep particularly close watch if they have dog breeds like pugs, which are prone to breathing problems, as well as birds, which are at risk due to the unique structure of their respiratory systems.

Older animals with underlying medical conditions, like cardiovascular or respiratory disease, are also particularly at risk and should be monitored closely during periods of poor air quality.

Pet owners should call their veterinarians if their animals are experiencing the following symptoms, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association

• 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

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