Wildfires are in the news lately, as they are increasing in frequency and severity around the globe. These fires and the resulting smoke can pose significant risks to both humans and animals, both short term (eye, skin, and respiratory irritation) and long term (increased risk of heart disease, respiratory illness, and cancer). Wildfire smoke often contains traces of chemicals, metals, plastics, and other synthetic materials, making it more toxic than normal air pollution, and it can travel for hundreds of miles.
As responsible pet owners, it is crucial to prepare for these emergency events so that our furry friends are protected. Here are a few key tips to keep your pet safe when there’s smoke in the air:
- Stay Informed: Good information allows you to make good choices for yourself and your pet. Tune in to local news stations, sign up for emergency alerts, and check official websites for updates on fire conditions, air quality, and evacuation orders. Understanding the severity of the situation will help you take appropriate actions to safeguard your pets.
- Bring Pets Indoors: During wildfire events, the smoke is your enemy – it’s full of toxins and irritants. Keep your pet inside as much as possible to reduce their exposure. You can create a comfortable, safe space inside your home where they can stay until the situation improves. Be sure to close windows and doors to reduce the amount of smoke and particles that get into the house. And as hard as it may be, avoid walks and outdoor activities, except for short bathroom breaks, until the air quality improves.
- Filter the Air: If you have access to an air purifier with HEPA filters, consider using it in the designated safe room or throughout your home. These devices can help remove smoke particles and improve the air quality, creating a healthier environment for both you and your pets. An air conditioner may also help filter the air in your home.
- Prepare an Emergency Kit: It’s always a good idea to have an emergency kit ready, specifically for your pets. Include essential items such as food, water, medications, leashes, carriers, blankets, and their medical records. You could also include comfort items such as favorite toys or treats. Having this kit prepared ahead of time will allow you to quickly evacuate with your pets, if necessary.
- Consult a Veterinarian: During a wildfire or smoke emergency, if you notice any signs of respiratory distress in your pet, contact your veterinarian immediately. Signs of distress could include coughing, noisy breathing, lethargy, decreased appetite, abnormal movement of the chest or abdomen while breathing, or open-mouth breathing (in cats). Your veterinarian can determine if it’s an emergency and will provide the best health advice for your pet.
- Keep Calm and Carry On: Pets are sensitive to their owners’ emotions, so it’s important to remain calm and provide comfort during stressful situations. Spend quality time with your pets, engage in activities they enjoy, and offer reassurance through gentle petting, a soothing voice, and their favorite toys. Having fun with your pet will help alleviate their anxiety and stress caused by the unfamiliar circumstances – and may help you tolerate the difficulties, as well!
During wildfires or when smoke permeates the air, our pets rely on us to keep them safe. With a bit of knowledge, planning, and preparation, we can ensure the well-being of our furry companions – and create some peace of mind for ourselves.