Wildfire season in the American West is 100 days longer than they were in the 1970’s.

Wild animals have created strategies for escaping these wildfires; birds fly away, small animals burrow under rocks, and large animals run away or find refuge in waterways. But what about your beloved pet?

If you have ever experienced a wildfire in your area, you know that the smoke can be quite irritating and cause health problems. If you feel the effects of smoke, it is a signal to also consider precautions to keep your pets safe.

In the fall of 2020, the air quality index rose into the high 500s (anything over 300 is considered hazardous) in parts of western United States. Thick toxic smoke hung in the air for weeks which required many people to stay indoors and wear double masks even while traveling in a vehicle. It was not recommended to go outside.

As a dog owner, you know that it is necessary to go outside with your pet a few times per day. Animals also suffer from cardiovascular or respiratory disease which makes it dangerous when particulates are heavy in the air.

Watch for signs of distress

Just as certain people are more at risk from poor air quality from wildfire smoke, so are certain dogs. This includes dogs that suffer from asthma or bronchitis, Brachycephalic dogs like bulldogs, Boston terriers and pugs. And just as humans, puppies, and senior dogs.

If you don’t yet have a mask for your dog keep a watchful eye for signs that they may be experiencing smoke distress:

  • Coughing or gagging
  • Breathing with an open mouth or wheezing
  • Red eyes or watery eyes
  • Inflammation in the throat or mouth
  • Discharge from the nose
  • Asthma-like symptoms
  • Fast breathing rate
  • More fatigued than usual
  • Weakness
  • Disorientation
  • Reduced appetite and/or thirst

What can you do?

If possible, you want to keep your dog inside with you and the windows closed. If weather permits, using the air conditioner will filter the air a bit. If you do need to go outside, keep it short, and be sure your dog is well hydrated.

Long walks should be put on hold until the smoke clears.

Indoor exercise will be important for you and your dog. How about a game of hide and seek, fetch and tug, or practicing some basic training? There are many enrichment games and online videos from trainers to reference.

What if your dog’s natural instincts kick in and they run off?  Be sure they are wearing identification tags with your phone number.

When living in the west it is wise to be prepared for wildfire season. Smoke can hang in the air for weeks which will force us to stay indoors and limit our outdoor exercise routines. Other times you may find yourself in an emergency evacuation zone with only minutes to escape.  This requires planning ahead and having supplies at the ready for you and your family, including your fur babies.

Be safe, and be prepared.