Owners reminded to protect animals from wildfire smoke

By Charlie Powell, College of Veterinary Medicine

Dog-webPULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine advises animal owners that wildfire smoke warnings apply to animals, too.

“Advisories that caution people to avoid heavy work or exercise outdoors and to remain indoors as much as possible should also pertain to our pets,” said Raelynn Farnsworth, the veterinarian who heads up the community practice service in the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. “The same hazards to lungs faced by people are faced by our pets when conditions are like this.”

Special attention should be given to pregnant, elderly and young pets that are naturally more vulnerable, she said, and owners should avoid outdoor exercise with any pets until conditions improve.

“Short walks are OK for healthy dogs for bathroom purposes, but unless longer walks are necessary they should be avoided during air quality alert warnings,” she said. “For dogs with airway, breathing or cardiac compromises, a brief on-leash potty break is best.”

Dogs should not be made to keep up with owners who are jogging or bike riding, Farnsworth said, nor should pets be left outside while owners are away all day at work or school.

“Watch the time of day,” she said, “as sometimes air quality can improve depending on a variety of conditions and a longer period outside may be okay.”

“This is no time to take pet birds outside,” said Nickol Finch, head of WSU’s exotic and wildlife animal section in the teaching hospital. Birds are extremely susceptible to respiratory compromise from particulates in the air from any source, she said.

“For now, they need to stay inside and owners need to watch their condition carefully while we are under these advisories,” she said.

Owners also are encouraged to make sure animals have access to clean and abundant water.

“Maintaining proper hydration when conditions are like this ensures animals and people have moist airways that can function well to move inhaled particulates up and out of the body,” said Steve Parish, the veterinarian who heads up agricultural animal services for the WSU veterinary hospital.

Below is a list of common signs of smoke inhalation from the Pet Poison Helpline of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. For animals that cannot be sheltered indoors, such as livestock or horses, these signs can signal increasing respiratory distress in those species, too.

• Increased respiratory rates or difficulty breathing
• Unusual or excessive coughing, sneezing, vomiting or loss of appetite
• Swelling or inflammation of the mouth, eyes, skin or upper airway
• Open-mouthed breathing, especially in cats
• Squinting
• Uncoordinated walking, almost like being intoxicated
• Weakness/lethargy
• Increased salivation or foamy saliva
• Increased or unusual vocalization
• Unconsciousness
• Seizures

If animals exhibit any abnormal signs or appear to be in immediate distress, they should be evaluated by a veterinarian right away.


Charlie Powell, WSU College of Veterinary Medicine public information officer, phone or text 509-595-2017, cpowell@vetmed.wsu.edu