California’s fire season is here, and pet owners are responsible for ensuring their furry friends avoid poor air quality’s hazards, such as smoke, soot, and toxic particles. Fire’s harmful effects are not limited to people and pets in the closest proximity—smoke can travel hundreds of miles. Because smoke can be detrimental to your pet’s eyes and respiratory tract, follow our Marina Village Veterinary and Integrative Care team’s tips to keep your pet safe this fire season.
#1: Monitor air quality for your pet
Keep an eye on the air quality by checking the California Air Resources Board website or mobile app or the airnow.gov website for current air quality conditions and forecasts. Smoke levels can change throughout the day, so before heading out with your pet on their daily walk, check the current air quality. If the air quality is poor, skip the walk, and choose an engaging indoor activity, such as:
- Playing hide and seek, fetch, and tug
- Solving puzzle toys
- Practicing basic commands
#2: Limit your pet’s outdoor time
When a fire is causing poor outdoor air quality, keep your pet indoors as much as possible—with the windows closed until the smoke settles, and the air quality improves. Keep your pet’s outdoor bathroom breaks brief, avoid intense outdoor exercise, and provide plenty of fresh water to keep them well hydrated. Birds are particularly susceptible to smoke’s harmful effects, and should stay indoors when smoke is present.
#3: Keep indoor air clean for your pet
When the outside air quality is poor, ensure you keep your inside air pollution-free. To create a clean-air safe zone in your home, follow these recommendations.
- Keep your home sealed — Shut out harmful toxins and air particles by closing all doors, windows, and vents.
- Change AC settings — Set your air conditioner to indoor-air intake, and close the fresh-air intake. If you and your pet go for a car ride, close the windows and vents, and run the air conditioner in recirculate mode.
- Purchase an air filter — Use a high-powered high-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) filter to ensure your home’s air quality is clean. You can also place portable air cleaners throughout your home to reduce indoor air particles. Ensure each portable air cleaner is appropriate to each room’s size. Confirm that the portable air cleaner does not emit ozone, which is a harmful air pollutant.
- Do not add to indoor air pollution — Avoid increasing indoor air pollution by refraining from the following:
- Burning candles
- Cooking on gas, propane, or woodburning stoves
- Using a wood-burning fireplace
- Spraying aerosols
- Smoking tobacco products
- Vacuuming with a product that is not HEPA sealed
#4: Monitor your pet
Poor air quality can negatively affect any pet, but some pets are at higher risk of developing an acute illness, including:
- Pets with chronic asthma or bronchitis
- Flat-faced (i.e., brachycephalic) breeds such as bulldogs, Boston terriers, and pugs
- Senior pets
If your pet has a high risk of developing a respiratory illness, keep a close eye on them when the air quality is poor. The following signs can indicate your pet is suffering from smoke inhalation:
- Coughing or gagging
- Red, irritated, or watery eyes
- Nasal discharge
- Throat or mouth inflammation
- Labored breathing (e.g., open-mouth, noisier-than-usual, or fast breathing)
- Excessive thirst
#5: Prepare your pet for emergency evacuation
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and California pet owners should always be prepared to evacuate their pet safely during fire season.
- Assemble your pet’s emergency kit — Most evacuation orders are issued suddenly, and you will have no time to gather all your pet’s essential items. Put together your pet’s emergency kit today so that you can quickly grab their essential items if a home evacuation order is suddenly issued.
- Ensure your pet has current identification— Ensure your pet’s collar is securely fastened, and that the identification tag information is current. In addition, if your pet is microchipped, ensure the information is current, especially your mobile phone number. Your pet’s microchip, placed by your veterinarian, provides your pet with permanent identification if they lose their identification tags during a natural disaster.
- Know where your pet is welcome in case of an evacuation — Not all emergency shelters for people accept pets, so determine ahead of a fire evacuation where your pet could stay—with friends or family, or with you at a pet-friendly shelter or hotel. Websites such as bringfido.com and hotels.petswelcome.com can help you locate pet-friendly hotels and motels outside the fire evacuation area.
California’s fire season dangers extend beyond the flames, and we recommend you keep this list handy as you plan for your pet’s care when the air is smoky or a home evacuation order is issued. If your pet needs microchipping, or is exhibiting smoke-inhalation signs, contact Marina Village Veterinary and Integrative Care to schedule an appointment.