Protect Your Pets from Poor Air Quality Caused by Wildfires

Parts of North America have recently been experiencing poor air quality due to wildfire smoke from Canada. This fact is an unsettling reality for many residents of affected cities, as they can smell the smoke and perhaps even see it. 

The smoke affects humans and animals, and many pet owners may wonder how to handle the situation.

What You Should Know About Smoke from Wildfires

Matter produces smoke when it reaches a certain temperature. As this occurs, the components of this matter go from solid to gas, releasing many particles into the air. This complex mixture of gas and particles makes up the smoke surrounding a fire. 

When we breathe we fill our lungs with air. The particles and gasses that make up the smoke enter our lungs by inhaling the air from wildfire. Though our nasal passages may filter some particles, many others will enter our bodies. These particles are potentially toxic and could harm us and our pets.

In the immediate proximity to the burning location, this smoke can be extremely hazardous to the respiratory system of all animals (humans, pets, livestock, birds). If you are close to a burning event, follow closely the information provided by your local officials.

Pet Evacuation Kit

In an extreme situation (which is not necessarily the case most of the time), your officials may advise you to evacuate your home. Though it would be an infrequent and location-specific case scenario, it’s advisable to have a Pet Evacuation Kit ready. If not for such an unfortunate occasion, at least to have peace of mind and reassurance. 

This kit can contain items such as a 3 to 7 days supply of food, water, two weeks of medicine, a collapsible feeding dish, identification documents, an emergency contact list, etc. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has a downloadable checklist that’s a great resource to look into.

How Smoke Spreads

Uncontrolled fires produce a staggering amount of smoke plunged into the atmosphere and spread by wind. Wildfire smoke can affect people hundreds of miles away from the burning source. 

This makes the outdoor air unhealthy to breathe. When this happens, it becomes advisable to spend more time indoors and make sure your windows and doors are shut such as to not allow the unhealthy air to enter your home environment.

The furthest you are from a burning event, the less you have to worry. Though, there are some important things to consider about your and your pet’s health.

The Effect of Smoke on Pets

The smoke in the atmosphere creates poor air quality that potentially makes breathing outdoors hazardous. This poor air quality could affect pets who spend time outdoors, especially pets with small nasal passages. 

Pugs, Pekingese, and French Bulldogs are some breeds at higher risks of ingesting harmful chemicals, as their nasal passages are smaller and have a more limited capacity for filtering harmful particles. 

Any dog breed with cardiovascular or lung conditions, such as chronic bronchitis and asthma, or is either puppy or elder, should be specially looked after.

If your pet meets any of these conditions, pay special attention to their breathing. 

Signs to look out for that may indicate “Respiratory Track Irritation”

Respiratory Track Irritation is a condition that could be a product of smoke inhalation from wildfire. This condition occurs in humans as well as in pets. The following symptoms could indicate Respiratory Track Irritation and are important signs to pay attention to. 

  • Noisy, labored breathing.
  • Increased respiratory rates.
  • Coughing.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Runny nose.
  • Eye irritation or discharge.
  • Lethargy or decreased activity level.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.

Contact your veterinarian if you see your dog with any of those symptoms.

Tips for Pet Owners

We are equally affected by smoke as our pets, but our pets cannot take measures such as wearing a facemask and limiting their time outdoors. So, it’s up to us to ensure our pets breathe as little impure air as possible.

The following tips will help keep you and your pet safe until the air quality gets better.

  • Consider investing in an air purifier, which could benefit everyone in the family.  
  • Keep windows and doors closed to protect the breathing environment.
  • Keep your pets indoors as much as possible. Consider letting dogs out only for their immediate potty needs, and have their leisure and playtime done indoors. 
  • Create a fun and entertaining indoor play area so your dog is not anxious to go outside. If you’ve got ample indoor space, such as basements, consider having indoor play areas where your dog can play and exercise safely.
  • If you don’t have room in your house for an indoor play area, and you have a high energy dog, consider looking into a doggie daycare facility that has an indoor leisure area for dogs; that way you don’t need to take them outdoors to get their exercise.
  • Schedule walks for later in the afternoon or earlier in the morning. Whichever time of the day is cooler, that way dogs won’t be inclined to pant, which makes them inhale more air, therefore ingesting more of the unhealthy smoke. 
  • If you’ve got high-risk animals such as puppies, elder dogs, or breeds of dogs whose faces are flat, consider taking them for a few days to an area that is not affected by the smoke, maybe a human aunt or uncle’s house who could care for them until the air quality in your area improves.


The hazy skies and unusual smoke scent of the wildfires is not a pleasant situation, however many miles away you may be from the original burning location. It’s a sight that is as unusual for us as it is for our precious pets. 

Though they may lack the information we have about the circumstances and realities of these fires, our pets can pick up on how we’re feeling, especially if we’ve developed a deep bond with them.

So, don’t despair; make sure you keep yourself informed and with a clear head.

Limit your and your pet’s exposure to impure air. Consider quitting smoking (if you do), as this will also limit your exposure to the outdoors. At least until the smoke disperses and the air quality gradually improves (which it will).

Breathing is a beautiful act of biology that fills us and our animals with nurture. Be mindful of it and help your pet be exposed to the best quality air.

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