How To Protect Your Pets From Bush Fire Smoke

A dog frolics near 2017"s Thomas Fire in California (Photo: David McNew, Getty Images)

Your pets breathe the same air you do. If you’re putting on a mask and taking precautions against bush fire smoke this summer, you should be taking precautions for your pets as well.

How to Know If Smoke Is Bothering Your Pet

Dogs and cats have similar reactions to the smoke as people do. The American Veterinary Medical Association says these are some signs to look for:

  • Coughing, gagging, or open-mouthed breathing

  • Faster breathing

  • Eyes watering or looking irritated

  • Nasal discharge

  • Fatigue, disorientation, or reduced appetite

Birds are even more sensitive to smoke, in part because their lungs are really good at pulling oxygen from the air. This also makes them more sensitive to irritating or poisonous things in the air (think of the “canary in the coal mine,” which was a real thing.)

Keep Them Indoors

Smoke-filtering masks aren’t made for pets, so your best bet is to keep them indoors and keep the air as clean as you can. These steps are similar to what you would do for yourself and your human family:

  • Keep windows and doors closed.

  • Turn off the fresh-air intake on your air conditioner, and set it to just recirculate the air that’s already in the house.

  • Use an air purifier. If you don’t have one that can handle a whole home’s worth of air, put it in the room your pets spend the most time in (or move your pets to the room with the filter).

  • If your pet needs to go outside, limit the amount of time they spend in smoky air, and try to time those trips for the times of day when it seems to be less smoky.

Outdoor pets may get a little bit stir crazy, so consider buying or making some new toys to keep them entertained.

Plan for Evacuation

If the smoke gets too bad, or the bush fires too close, you may have to pack up and leave home. Remember your pets when you’re planning your trip: have a proper carrier for birds, cats, and small pets, and figure out what shelters, hotels, or friends’ houses can accommodate pets. Accommodate this as a part of your bush fire evacuation plans and assign someone the job of taking care of the pets.

If you have horses or other livestock, call around to find trailers you might be able to rent or borrow in a pinch; the AMVA suggests asking your neighbours, farmers, and haulers well ahead of time.


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