Wildfire Smoke and Pets: Impacts & Tips for Protection

by | Jun 16, 2023 | Animal Wisdom, Safety

A few weeks ago, as I started thinking about this blog from my home office in Ontario, Canada, about an hour north or Toronto, I looked out the window and saw grey skies. But it wasn’t because of an impending Summer storm, it was because of the smoke from the wildfires that were (and still are) burning in Quebec.

They’re not only burning in Quebec. Several Canadian provinces are currently on high alert, fighting fires that are raging out of control. We just received another alert this week about air quality…

Of course we know that this isn’t a Canadian phenomenon – many US states are also dealing with the exact same danger right now. And if they’re not dealing with the fires, they’re dealing with the smoke.

And while the immediate threat in our area has subsided, that isn’t the case everywhere.

Forest fires aren’t going away anytime soon. As we all deal with this challenge, it’s important to note the humans are not the only ones impacted by the poor air quality. Talking about wildfire smoke and pets right now is also very, very important. Our animals are just as vulnerable to the effect, and it’s crucial to consider their welfare as well as our own.

The Impacts on Animal Health

The health impacts of wildfire smoke on our pets can be similar to those on humans. The dense smoke can be a major source of toxic air pollutants, which contain fine particles (that are not visible to the human eye) that penetrate deep into the lungs and bloodstream, sometimes leading to serious health effects, particularly to the respiratory system.

Both senior dogs and the very young are at higher risk, as are pets with pre-existing heart or lung conditions. Additionally, some breeds of dog have higher rates of respiratory issues, particularly brachycephalic breeds, Boston terriers and Cavalier King Charles spaniels. Cats too are at a higher risk, especially those with asthma. Pet birds and horses also are at higher risk.

It’s important to keep a close eye on your pets while these air quality alerts are in place. Watch for any signs of respiratory distress, as well as:

  • Coughing
  • Gagging
  • Red or watery eyes
  • Watery nose
  • Elevated respiratory rate when not engaged in activity
  • Lethargy

Outdoor animals such as horses are also at a higher risk because they can’t stay indoors where the air is cleaner. They will show similar signs or irritation, including irritated eyes and respiratory systems, compromised lung function and respiratory distress.

Wildfire Smoke and Pets: How to Protect Our Animals

For humans, protection is fairly simple. Mask-wearing, closing doors and windows, and limiting exposure to the smoke are all recommended. An air purifier inside can also help combat the harmful particles from hanging around. And aside from masks, all of these things will also help our animals.

That said, there are other things we can do to protect them:

  • keep bathroom breaks short during this time
  • avoid walks or any long periods of time outdoors
  • avoid physical exercise outdoors
  • keep stress to a minimum

For outdoor animals specifically (ex. horses), reduce stress and activity as much as possible and keep them in barns if possible. Give them access to plenty of fresh water.

And perhaps the biggest piece of advice we can give is…

Remember to Keep Your Animal Active!

When the air quality alert was up, our 3 large, active dogs didn’t have an actual walk in several days. Normally, we’re out in the neighbourhood or on the trail every day, but with the air quality like it was, it just was not safe. But that meant we needed to consider their mental health without this exercise. 

Instead of walking, we did lots of brain work in the house. Our dogs love trick training, and short sessions throughout the day really help to give them the mental stimulation they require when they can’t be out walking. Mentally stimulating treats and games, like puzzles or raw bones, are good tools to use to get the brain working.

If you absolutely can’t go without a walk, consider going when the air quality and temperature and humidity are expected to be at the lowest level of risk during the day.

**TIP: The herbs in our Gut Soothe, like n-acetyl glucosamine, can help protect and soothe the delicate linings of the respiratory tract! 

When we consider the impacts of wildfire smoke and pets staying safe, we can all do our part to reduce the negative effects. 

The Adored Beast Team

Bringing you decades of animal health experience. They are product gurus, nutrition specialists, industry experts and researchers, but most importantly, pet owners, pet parents and animal lovers. The Adored Beast team is made up of people who care about the health and wellbeing of your animal family. Their fundamental goal is to provide information, advice, and experienced support you can use, each and every day, to help your pet live the longest, healthiest, happiest life possible.

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