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Wildfire smoke irritation & Dogs

Air quality & Dogs is a hot topic as Canada wildfires spread rapidly.

Here in Maryland we are on a red alert.

When checking the air quality you must first know what your reading.

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a tool that measures daily air quality levels. The AQI ranges from 0 to 500 and is divided into six color-coded categories: good (green), moderate (yellow), unhealthy for sensitive groups (orange), unhealthy (red), very unhealthy (purple) and hazardous (maroon).

“The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern,” AirNow says on its website. “For example, an AQI value of 50 or below represents good air quality, while an AQI value over 300 represents hazardous air quality.” Maryland for example is 200 AQI as of June 8th 2023 at 3 pm.

Poor air quality from wildfire smoke can irritate your pet’s eyes and respiratory tract, according to AirNow. To protect your pet, our sources say you should:

  • Keep pets indoors as much as possible, and keep doors and windows closed.

  • Let dogs and cats outside only for brief bathroom breaks when air quality alerts are in effect.

  • Pet birds, who are particularly susceptible to smoke irritation, should not be allowed outside. 

  • Avoid long walks and intense outdoor exercise during periods of poor air quality.

  • Keep indoor air clean: do not fry or broil foods, vacuum, burn candles, use a fireplace or wood stove, or smoke tobacco products. These activities can add particles to your home.

Poor air quality from wildfire smoke can cause potential health problems for pets, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), AirNow, the American Kennel Club and Filtrete by 3M. Animals with heart or lung disease and older pets are especially at risk from smoke irritation and should be closely watched during all periods of poor air quality.

Other signs of possible smoke or dust irritation in animals, include:

  • Coughing

  • Gagging

  • Difficulty breathing, including open mouth breathing and increased noise when breathing

  • Eye irritation and excessive watering

  • Inflammation of throat or mouth

  • Nasal discharge

  • Asthma-like symptoms

  • Increased breathing rate

  • Fatigue or weakness

  • Disorientation

  • Stumbling

Which Dogs Have More Risk for Respiratory Distress From Smoke Inhalation?

Just as young children and senior citizens are more at risk for harm from breathing wildfire smoke, so too are certain dogs more likely to experience acute illness as a result of poor air quality. These include:

  • Any dog with asthma or bronchitis

  • Brachycephalic dogs like Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Pugs

  • Puppies and senior dogs

Should My Dog Be Wearing a Mask?

Some pet parents have turned to air masks for their dogs to protect them from everything from smog and wildfire smoke to COVID-19, but in general, masks should only be considered in severe situations such as being in direct proximity to a wildfire. In non-severe situations, masks may present risks that are even more dangerous than breathing poor quality air.

Masks can prevent your dog from panting which may increase their rise of heat related injuries such as heat stroke. Dogs should only wear masks for short periods of time, so be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations about how long the mask can be safely worn and how often the filters need to be replaced.

Masks are not recommended for brachycephalic dogs, senior pets, or dogs with underlying respiratory issues such as asthma because they may struggle to breathe while wearing one.

Indoor Activities to Keep Your Dog Busy.

If you live in an area affected by wildfire smoke, it’s a great time to focus on indoor activities. You could brush up on your dog’s training, try enrichment games, or get help from a local pet sitter or in-home daycare to keep your dog busy in the absence of outdoor walks.

Indoor “exercise” for your dog can include:

If you’re feeling ambitious, or if your dog is of the herding variety (like Cattle dogs, Shepherds, and Collies), these activities take indoor games to the next level:

If you see signs of smoke or dusk irritation call your vet immediately.

If you have any questions or concerns please reach out to

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