Dogs & Wildfires

The entire West Coast is burning. Thousands of people have lost their homes and have had to evacuate. Areas not on fire are consumed by thick smoke. Oregon is under a state of emergency. Air quality in Central Oregon is horrendous and people have been advised to stay indoors. But what do the fires and smoke mean for your Adventure loving Pup?! And what about all your other pets and livestock that have to stay outdoors?!

photo credit: Noah Berger, Associated Press

As unhealthy as smoke can be to humans, it can also cause serious health problems for nonhuman animals. Smoke from wildfires affects pets, horses, livestock and wildlife. If you can see or feel the effects of smoke yourself, you should take precautions to keep your pets and livestock safe.

Look for the following signs of possible smoke irritation. If any of your animals are experiencing any of these signs, please consult your veterinarian:

  • Coughing/gagging
  • Difficulty breathing; panting, wheezing, gasping
  • Eye irritation
  • Excessively drinking water
  • Reduced appetite and/or thirst
  • Inflammation of throat or mouth
  • Nasal discharge
  • Fatigue/weakness/lethargy
  • Disorientation or stumbling

Tips to protect pets & livestock

  • Keep pets indoors as much as possible, and keep your windows shut.
  • Birds are particularly susceptible and should not be allowed outside when smoke is present
  • Brief outdoor bathroom breaks
  • Avoid outdoor exercise during periods of poor air quality.
  • Have a pet evacuation kit ready, include your animals in your disaster preparedness planning. (see below for kit info)
  • Limit exercise when smoke is visible. Don’t require animals to perform activities that cause labored breathing.
  • Provide plenty of fresh water near feeding areas.
  • Limit dust exposure by feeding low-dust or dust-free feeds and misting the livestock area.
  • Have a livestock evacuation plan ready in advance. Coordinate with neighbors/friends if you don’t have enough trailers.
  • Remove dead trees, clear away brush, and maintain a defensible space around livestock structures.
  • Give livestock 4-6 weeks to recuperate after the air quality returns to normal. Attempting to handle, move, or transport livestock may delay healing.

The fires have been spreading quickly and many people are awaiting evacuation orders. If you have not prepared for emergency evacuation, and are looking for some guidance on how to do so, The American Veterinary Medical Association has everything laid out in a downloadable booklet entitled “Saving the Whole Family”.

If you and your Pup don’t have the option to stay indoors, there are air filtering masks for dogs that can help them breathe and stay healthy.

2020 has been challenging… but we can make it through! Be prepared, be thoughtful, and be safe!

Surviving the Smoke

As the fires continue to burn throughout Oregon we ask ourselves, “How much more can I stand this campfire smell?!” Well if your pup could talk, he would be asking himself the same thing!

A dog’s sense of smell is about 10,000 times more powerful than ours! Dogs have up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to our measly 6 million. And the part of a dog’s brain that is devoted to analyzing smells is about 40 times greater than ours. That’s a whole lotta campfire stench!

Not only are their senses of smell sensitive to the smokey air, but when a dog exercises they pant in order to keep their bodies cool. This means they are taking in gasps of air for an extended period of time. When you take your pup out to exercise in these smokey conditions, they will begin to pant and inhale the unhealthy air into their lungs. This air could effect even the healthiest of dogs, but is much worse for elderly pups, dogs that are overweight, and of course those with health issues.

Please be aware of the air quality in your town, and be sure to limit outdoor romps and hazardous air exposure.

“Pet owners who must walk or exercise pets outdoors should look for times of the day when smoke and dust settle as much as possible. On really severe days, designated with a red air quality warning, maybe only a quick outing in the yard is best. By all means, though, avoid intensive exercise during these periods of poor air quality.” -Dr. Robert Dyke of WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital 

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