Recently, wildfires in Canada have impacted the air quality across the nation. In Minnesota, we’ve experienced hazy skies, the distinct smell of smoke in the air, and record-setting high Air Quality Index (AQI) scores.
The smoke and pollutants carried by the winds from these fires—in addition to other air pollutants and allergens—pose a significant concern for both humans and pets, especially those with pre-existing conditions.
Does air quality affect our pets?
Just like us, our pets are negatively impacted by air pollutants. With prolonged exposure, your pet could experience respiratory symptoms such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Runny nose
- Eye irritation
Those with pre-existing conditions, like asthma, are at a higher risk in poor air conditions. They may experience stronger symptoms, and the pollutants can also exacerbate the symptoms of their current health conditions.
According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, a variety of studies have shown just how hard indoor and outdoor air pollutants can be on pets, including a decrease in lung function.
Monitor your pets for any sign of discomfort or respiratory symptoms. If your pet appears to have trouble breathing or other unusual symptoms, contact your veterinarian right away.
Limit your pet’s outdoor exposure during air quality alerts
To keep your pet safe, stay informed about the air quality in your area by regularly checking the AQI provided by local authorities. AQI levels that are above 100 indicate potentially harmful conditions for both humans and pets.
During these times, it’s best to minimize the time that your pet spends outdoors (10-15 minutes max). If you must take your pet outside, do it when air quality is at its best, like early in the morning, and avoid intense exercise like jogging or hiking. Keep your neighborhood walks short and slow.
If an air quality alert has been issued, it’s best to limit your pet’s outside time to short bathroom breaks only.
Smoke is especially harmful to birds, so keep your feathered friends inside with the windows shut when poor air quality and smoke are present.
Create a clean, safe indoor environment for your pets
On particularly poor air quality days, even your indoor air can be affected by the quality outside. To keep your pet’s indoor environment safe, keep all windows and doors closed to minimize exposure to pollutants.
Air purifiers with HEPA filters can also help improve the air quality in your home, especially for those people and pets that are most vulnerable.
Access to clean, fresh water is also key. Hydration is always important to your pet’s overall health, but drinking water can also help soothe respiratory passages that may be dry or irritated from the air pollutants.
Keep your pet entertained indoors
Limiting your pet’s outdoor access doesn’t mean you need to limit their activity. There are plenty of fun ways to provide your pet with exercise and enrichment from the safety of your home!
Brain games like puzzles, interactive toys, or training activities are great ways to engage your dog’s brain and burn off extra energy. With just a few supplies, you can DIY hours of entertainment for your pup.
Your feline friends also benefit from indoor enrichment. Consider puzzle feeders and interactive playtime to keep your cat engaged.