Wildfires and How They Can Affect Your Dog’s Health and Lifestyle

Wildfires and Dogs

Back in September, wildfire smoke consumed parts of Central and Southern Oregon. The Air Quality Index – AQI – of 15 counties in the region reached critical levels as the air pollution in those areas increased rapidly. 

The presence of harmful tiny particles (pollutants), known as PM2.5, also increased in the air during the time, which led to health concerns for both humans, and animals. Not to mention, these unhealthy conditions and high concentration of harmful particles in the air was not good for the environment either.

Over the weeks, the situation in and around those regions has somewhat improved. The latest weather and air quality data show that the air quality in Medford, Oregon, and other surrounding regions has somewhat improved. The real-time data suggests that the AQI index in the region is currently at levels moderate to good.

Given the fact that the town of Medford had just recovered from a wildfire that made 82,000 residents evacuate their homes back in the September of 2020, the air quality in this region is rather good. However, the question is, how long till the next one?

More wildfires can always break out, not only in Oregon but in various other states as well. Hence, you should take this opportunity to assess the situation, understand how it might impact your dog, as well as your own life, and know what you should do to stay safe and risk-free.


Wildfires and Dogs


Identifying the Signs and Problems that Can Arise Due to Wildfire smoke

The smoke from wildfires may not affect your pet the same way as it affects you. Hence, you should first learn to identify the signs of the presence of smoke or harmful particles in the air. 

The presence of smoke can cause eye irritations. You might find your dog blinking its eyes frequently. It could also be that its eyes are getting all watery. These are signs of dense smoke in the area. 

Coughing and gagging are very common signs of poor air quality. Alongside these, you might also notice your dog’s eyes getting red or watery, with or without nasal discharge. The nasal discharge is a sign that the pollutants have somehow already entered the dog’s body. This will be followed by inflammation of your dog’s throat or mouth, and your dog cannot eat solid food.

You will also notice breathing difficulties with fatigue and drowsiness. Your dog might also lose its thirst and/or appetite. There is also a possibility of your dog having seizures. Weakness is also common in such situations, as your dog cannot properly eat anything and is losing its appetite. All these may be accompanied by excessive drooling and/or vomiting. 

The minute pollutants can lead to lung infection in your dogs. So unless you can identify these early signs, and get treatment, the situation might worsen. Hence, get in touch with a vet as soon as you can, the moment you notice the symptoms getting worse, or continuing for a prolonged period.


How to Help Your Pet During these Situations

When you hear about the wildfire or a potential deterioration in the air quality, you must first put a ban on outdoor activities and playing. Do not take the risk of going out with your dog in such appalling conditions. The aim is to reduce your dog’s exposure to smoke. 

An AQI of 101-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive dog groups, puppies, and adult dogs with heart conditions or breathing problems. These dogs should not be let out of the house, and the windows also need to be kept shut during a nearby wildfire.

One way to protect your dog is not just by shutting it inside the house, but by also preparing the house itself.  Install efficient filters for your air conditioning system before the wildfire season starts. That way, you can isolate the harmful minute particles and prevent them from entering the house. Air purifiers can also help, but they will be rendered useless if the condition is too dire, or there is too much smoke to deal with. 

During a wildfire in or around your area, limit the usage of frying vacuuming, using candles, stoves or fireplaces, and smoking tobacco products. Otherwise, you will only be adding more harmful and potentially toxic particles to your home, including an accumulation of carbon dioxide.

Evacuate as soon as fire officials recommend it. It is best if you can put aside a few necessary things to take along with you, just in case you have to leave your house on short notice. Create a separate evacuation kit for your dog. This kit should include food and water for at least 10 days, first aid supplies and essential medications, the contact information of your vet, your dog crate, ID tags, and a leash. You might also want to carry comfort toys or items, as well as a muzzle. Assuming that you will have to live away from home for at least a week, take some money along with you too, and of course your credit/debit cards.

Also, make sure you have an FM radio with you. Phone signals may not be available during such crises. Hence, you cannot rely on mobile networks or the internet at such times. You will have a better chance of staying updated on the latest developments, and how you might keep yourself and your pets safe by tuning into the radio.

Since 1983, there have been over 70,000 wildfires on average each year in the United States. These wildfires are not only destroying life and property but are also affecting our environment and climate change. 

The smoke from these fires not only affects nearby areas but can cause the air quality to deteriorate for up to thousands of miles. Hence, you need to be cautious. You have to avoid these affected areas at all costs for your own sake, as well as the sake of your dogs and other pets.

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