What pet owners need to know as poor air quality continues

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Poor air quality across Utah is not only causing health problems for Utahns, but their pets too. If this pollution continues, some veterinarians expect calls and emergency visits to ramp up like they do during the winter inversion.  

In the meantime, there are several things you can do to protect your pet. This includes staying indoors as much as possible, keeping hydrated, and holding off on any strenuous exercise outside until this unhealthy air passes.  

“Pets actually experience the same type of discomfort and dangers that people do,” Public Relations Manager of the Best Friends Animal Society Temma Martin said.  

As smoke from out of state wildfires continues to consume Utah, it is important to monitor your pet on days that don’t appear as bad.  

“That first day, the smoke was so intense so it was easy to remember how dangerous the air was because you could smell it so strongly. Even on these days that don’t seem as bad, it’s still a good idea to protect your pets,” Martin said.  

Like humans, the small particulates from the smoke can reach deep into your pets’ lungs and can lead to several health issues.  

“When air quality is bad, pets can experience the same things like coughing and wheezing. If they have preexisting diseases, those can certainly be worse by poor air quality,” DVM Diplomate University of Veterinary Hospital Dr. Shawn Bybee said.  

Certain animals are more at risk of getting sick from the air quality than others. This includes puppies or kittens, elderly animals, birds, and snub-nosed dogs and cats. If your pet falls into any of these categories or has pre-existing health conditions like respiratory or cardiovascular disease, experts believe you should limit their activity.  

“A 20-to-30-minute walk outside at a time of the day when it’s not too hot I think is fine with this quality of air,” Dr. Shawn Bybee said.  

If your animal is considered healthy, Dr. Bybee said it is okay to bring them to a dog park, for example, and let them run around.  

Some symptoms to watch out for include coughing, shortness of breath, conjunctivitis, and wheezing.  

“If they’re at rest and having a hard time catching their breath when they’re sleeping next to their owner, that’s a problem. And again, if it lasts longer, we’d expect to see some eye stuff with dogs. Cats that are kept primarily indoors can experience flare ups of asthma and chronic bronchitis as well,” Dr. Bybee said.  

Pet owners are encouraged to use their own judgement when deciding what activities to do with their animal while this poor air quality continues.  

“I think people know what their pets’ normal is and if they deviate from that in any way, like if they’re coughing where they used to not cough, or if they’re having a hard time breathing when they usually don’t, people usually notice that,” Dr, Bybee said.  

If it any point you think your pet is having a reaction, you’re encouraged to call your vet immediately. Dr. Bybee said the treatment is mainly supportive. However, oxygen and steroids can be given to help with the inflammation and control the cough.  

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