Just as in people, the air quality warnings for smoke and ash from wildfires can adversely affect animals as well. The largest concern is for those that are young, old, pregnant, or have chronic illnesses, especially lung or heart disease.
Short walks are OK for dogs; however, longer walks or running should be avoided during these peak times of worsening air quality. For animals with airway, lung, or cardiac compromises, a quick potty break on-leash is best. Maintaining proper hydration is imperative, as keeping the lungs hydrated will help combat any inhaled particulates.
Birds and pocket-type pets are extremely vulnerable, and they should not be taken outdoors during times of heavy smoke and ash. Even indoors, you should monitor them very closely for difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, or increased lethargy.
And don’t forget about our large four-legged friends outdoors. Horses and cattle, in particular, can hide lung disease until it is exacerbated by unclean air quality.
If your pet is showing any signs of respiratory distress, including faster breathing, difficulty breathing, unusual coughing, significant sneezing, vomiting, or loss of appetite, it is best to speak to a veterinarian at a minimum. Cats should also be monitored and examined immediately if they are breathing with their mouth open.
The Pet Poison Helpline (http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/smoke-inhalation/) is a great resource to read more about the concerns of smoke inhalation. The key thing, for all of us, it to take it easy and try to avoid hard exercise outside until the air clears.
-Dr. Chris Schwarz