California Wildfire Smoke: Helping Pets Cope

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California Wildfire Smoke: Helping Pets Cope

By Dr. Jess Trimble -

It’s a tough time to be a Californian. Bad air quality and power outages seem like minor inconveniences in comparison to the tragic fires burning around our state. But it can all be stressful for people and pets alike. We asked our vets for their tips on preparing our pets for what looks like several more days of poor air quality. 

First and foremost, get in the habit of checking the Air Quality Index. Anything over 50 can be irritating, and over 100 can cause health risks. You can also view AQI in Apple Maps or ask your digital home assistance "What is the Air Quality in my city right now?".

Limit Outside Time

For dogs, keep outdoor time limited to brief potty breaks. With the windows closed, air humidifiers and filters on, create some mental stimulations and activities for your pet: brain games (puzzles, nose work game), stuffed Kongs, obstacle course (agility course), food dispensing toys, or flirt poles.

For our feline friends, prioritize keeping your cats inside. If conditions worsen and your cat is out on the prowl, it may be hard to monitor them for symptoms of distress. Make sure that you have “n” (number of cats in the house) + 1 litter boxes – Meaning that in one house with 1 cat, must have at least 2 litter boxes. In a house with 2 cats, it must be at least 3 litter boxes, and so on. Keep the litter box always clean with new sand. Create some mental stimulations and activities: get new toys routinely. Let your cat hunt for food (dispensing toys), scratching posts, get a tall cat tree, put shelves on the walls (allowing the cat to climb), or provide flirt poles activities.

Keep Hydrated

Getting your pet to drink more can be difficult, but vets recommend the following for encouraging them.

  • Keep the water bowls clean (stainless or ceramic).
  • Provide fresh water every day and keep them filled to the brim.
  • Water fountains can stimulate the ingestion of water for some pets.
  • Provide at least 3 (or more) water bowls through the house, making easy the access to the water.
  • Add chicken/vegetable broth at the pet’s food or feed them with canned food (it has a higher water content).
  • Offer some fruits or vegetables to dogs – carrots, apples (without seeds), watermelon. Fruits and vegetables are high in water contain.

Keep An Eye Out For Symptoms

Respiratory problems like coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath, red eyes, nasal and/or eyes discharge, difficulty breathing (open mouth breathing, increased noise when breathing), increased breath rate, tongue turning purple or blue (it should be always pink, otherwise it is an emergency condition). Fatigue, weakness, reduced appetite or ingestion of water and change in level of awareness. If any of that symptoms are noticed, please take your pet to FSV.

At Home Care

Humidifiers may help remove some of the smoke, and Air Purifiers can help improve indoor air. Don’t add to indoor air pollution (burn candles, wood burnings, tobacco smoke, burning stoves, aerosol spray). If you notice irritation in your pet's eyes, you can use OCuSOFT Eye Wash. This is a non-medicated eye wash to wash out debris, good for washing out allergens or soften sticky discharge. 

Pets who suffer from asthma, bronchitis, nasal/lung cancer, pneumonia, heart disease or another respiratory issues, should receive a special attention during this period. Also, older pets, puppies and kittens are considered more susceptible due to low immunity.