As seven Canadian provinces find themselves under low air quality statements, health and safety are top-of-mind for those impacted by wildfire smoke.
We’ve heard from experts people are advised to stay indoors and those who are at-risk of respiratory conditions to consider N95 masks. But what about pets?
Read on for everything you need to know about keeping your furry friends safe.
How does wildfire smoke impact pets?
Dr. Louis Kwantes, former president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, told Yahoo Canada, “the danger mirrors the danger to people” for pets exposed to wildfire smoke.
That’s especially true for pets who go outside.
“Dogs love to go outside, but they can also be negatively affected by the smoke — they are,” Kwantes said.
“I’m thinking about cats with asthma, they can be significantly affected, even indoors too.”
The impact of smoke is very similar to that on humans.
“If they’re really close to the fire, there’s things like toxic gases and so forth. But most of it, is particulate matter that will actually get down into the lungs,” the Alberta-based vet explained. That particulate matter is known as PM 2.5 particles.
“The function of a dog’s lungs or cat’s lungs is very, very similar to human lungs.
“Birds’ lungs are different, but they also definitely can be affected… we recommend keep them inside if they can,” he added.
“So the damage that it can do to lung parenchyma, or lung tissue, is very similar between our pets and ourselves.”
What to do to keep your pet safe from wildfire smoke? Keep them inside: expert
Though N95 masks are advised for high-risk people, according to Kwantes, masks for dogs are not the most effective safety measure.
“They don’t fit properly, and so if you have leakages, whether it’s a homemade masks or another one, that’s a problem. And also, [dogs] usually don’t tolerate them very much,” he explained.
“What we suggest is where the air quality is very poor, that we keep the pets inside.”
For those with active dogs involved in outdoor activities, Kwantes added, it’s best to limit those activities. “The more they’re heavy breathing, it’s going to impact the lung function more seriously when the air quality is poor.”
For cats — which he recommends keeping indoors anyways — he suggests HEPA filters for some rooms.
“If we’re in an area of the country where the air quality is particularly poor outside, and we’re able to go to set up a HEPA filter for even a small part of the house, then both for pets and for ourselves, that’s a better place to be when necessary.”
‘Prevention is better than cure’: Expert
Kwantes said owners shouldn’t “push boundaries” with the dangers of wildfire smoke, and they should look out for symptoms.
“If a person does take their dog out and be quite active… and they come back coughing or have significant problems, that’s a real issue,” the animal doctor said.
“I would suggest that pet owners keep a close eye for the signs of problems with poor air quality.”
These are generally respiratory problems, he said, including: runny nose, coughing, sneezing, runny eyes.
“If you see those type of things, then you know that you’re already in the danger zone,” Kwantes said.
Mild signs, such as slight heavy breathing, should be a first warning sign to get your pets inside. But any escalation would be good enough of a reason for a visit to the vet.
“Use your common sense,” he advised.
Keep your pet out from areas of danger — that means keep them inside.
For animals with history of health problems, even mild symptoms could lead to serious consequences.
“You don’t want them to end up with chronic bronchitis or lung consolidation or other issues,” he claimed. “I generally say, if you’re concerned, that’s enough of a concern to go to the veterinarian.”
Even if the pet isn’t showing signs of irritation, use yourself as measure, Kwantes added.
“If we’re healthy, and we can sense that the smoke is kind of irritating, you can be sure that it will be irritating your pet.”