‘Recipe for potential disaster’: The hazards of extreme heat, wildfire smoke on your pet – National

The combination of scorching heat waves and hazardous wildfire smoke is creating an onslaught of health risks for pets, and experts are warning it may be a recipe for disaster without proper precautions.

Whether it’s taking your dog for a walk around the block, letting your cat out on a leash in the backyard or giving your pet bird some exercise, experts are advising pet owners to exercise caution and limit outdoor activities when the air quality is poor or the weather is blistering.

Wildfire smoke and extreme heat can pose a serious health risk to dogs and cats, just like it does to humans, explained Dr. Ron Worb, the chief veterinarian at the Anderson Animal Hospital and Wellness Center in Winnipeg.

“There’s a lot of irritants in the air from wildfires, and then you add in hot weather, that is definitely a recipe for potential disaster,” he warned.

Story continues below advertisement

However, he acknowledged pets, such as dogs, still require outdoor activities, even during periods of heightened wildfire smoke or heat.

“In those situations, one needs to leap to be a little creative and think a little bit outside the box,” Worb added.

As wildfires burn through forests and grasslands, they produce dense smoke that can be a major source of toxic air pollutants, which can contain fine particles known as PM 2.5 that are not visible to the human eye. The fine particles have the ability to penetrate deep into a dog’s lungs and bloodstream, sometimes leading to serious health effects, according to Health Canada.

The smoke from a wildfire can have a significant impact on, for example, a dog’s respiratory system. Like humans, when dogs inhale the smoke particles present in the air, it can irritate their respiratory tract and airways, explained Dr. Karen Ward, chief veterinary officer at the Toronto Humane Society.

Story continues below advertisement

If your pet is experiencing smoke irritation, there are some signs to watch for, she said.

“They could be coughing, or could just be a little quieter than normal, just sort of acting like their regular self,” Ward said. “Their eyes could be red and irritated. Maybe they have some exercise intolerance. They don’t have that same level of energy and enthusiasm they did at another point in time.”

Click to play video: 'An epidemiologist weighs in on the long term health effects due to wildfire smoke'

An epidemiologist weighs in on the long term health effects due to wildfire smoke

Like humans, certain animals, such as elderly cats and dogs or those with pre-existing health conditions, are particularly vulnerable to the effects of wildfire smoke.

For example, Ward said pugs, bulldogs and Persian cats may have a hard time during wildfires due to their unique respiratory anatomy. These breeds are brachycephalic, meaning they have shortened snouts and narrow airways compared with other dog breeds. Because of this, they are prone to respiratory issues and have difficulty breathing even under normal circumstances.

Story continues below advertisement

It is crucial to take extra precautions and closely monitor the well-being of these breeds during wildfire events to ensure their safety and minimize potential health risks, Ward said.

“It’s already so hard for them in the heat. If you add smoke on top of that, it’s multifactorial. We’re just really stacking a lot of problems for these poor little guys,” she said.

She added that birds are also “exquisitely sensitive to the pollutants in the environment” because of their unique respiratory system, leaving them ” particularly affected” during wildfires.

Similar to humans, pets can also experience the discomfort and effects of extreme heat.

Signs of heat exhaustion in pets include excessive and rapid breathing, accompanied by a noticeable decline in energy levels, responsiveness and alertness, Worb said.

Story continues below advertisement

“And in cases like that, if their core body temperature overheats, it can be life-threatening and there can be permanent brain damage,” he warned.

Click to play video: 'Protecting your pets from the heat'

Protecting your pets from the heat

If, for example, your dog shows signs such as poor responsiveness, difficulty catching their breath and intense redness in their mouth, it is crucial to take immediate action, Worb said. In cases of extreme heat exhaustion, pet owners should wrap their dogs in cold towels and seek immediate veterinary care, at either a clinic or an emergency facility.

“And then they’re going to require intensive treatment,” he said.

Ways to help your pet in extreme heat, wildfire

There are measures pet owners can take to support their pets during wildfires and extreme heat — and many solutions overlap.

Story continues below advertisement

Given the current wildfire season in Canada, Ward believes the frequency and intensity of the fires may become the norm, emphasizing the importance of proactive planning and preparedness as essential factors.

The first step, she said, is to check Health Canada’s Air Quality Health Index, which shows regions with high pollutant levels.

“Is there a time of day where it’s expected to be better? And particularly if that’s a cooler time of day, that’s often nice to get them up really early in the morning before it gets hot,” Ward said. “So even though they probably want to run and rip and terror, just restricting that outdoor activity.”

Engaging in vigorous activities at the dog park can elevate their heart rate, increase blood pressure and lead to deeper breathing, similar to humans during exercise. But it is not ideal for dogs when the smoke is particularly bad.

While running and playing are important for dogs, mental stimulation can be just as tiring, Ward said. Taking leisurely walks around the neighbourhood allows dogs to explore and sniff, which is highly beneficial for their health, she said.

Click to play video: 'Summer Pet Safety'

Summer Pet Safety

“It can be it can be a very slow, shorter walk that still has value to them,” Ward said.

Story continues below advertisement

The same can be said for the heat.

“Let’s not put them through extreme activity during the peak heated times of day,” Worb said. ” Take one’s pet out early in the morning or later in the evening. If one has the luxury of having air conditioning when your pets are indoors, I think that helps a lot. If not, pulling down all the shades in one’s home, having the fan to kind of keep them cool.

If you do take your dog on a walk in the heat, Worb recommends bringing water along to hydrate your pet. And when you get home, cool them off with a washcloth, or dip their feet in cold water because that is where dogs sweat from.

“If one also has little kiddy pools in one’s backyard, that’s a really nice thing to help pets too,” he added.

Having fun with your pet inside

In situations where staying indoors becomes necessary, such as during periods of poor air quality or extreme heat, it is advisable to create a comfortable indoor environment for your pet. Keeping them in a room with an air purifier or turning on the air conditioning can help.

Story continues below advertisement

Despite limited outdoor access, there are various ways to enhance your pet’s mental stimulation.

These activities include feeding games, pet puzzles, playing hide-and-seek, training your dog or cat, and scent games, she said.

Click to play video: 'Indoor activities for dogs'

Indoor activities for dogs

The Toronto Humane Society has more recommendations on how to keep your pet mentally fit when stuck indoors.

“Sometimes it can be even more enriching because when we do this inside it is very focused on that bond and your complete attention is on the dog,” Ward said.

“Whereas if you’re at the dog park, maybe you’re chatting to your friend and you’re kind of paying attention to your dog, but not completely. But there are opportunities to even really deepen that attachment and that interaction when we’re working with them indoors.”

Source link

Home  Articles  Disclaimer  Contact Us