Keep your pets indoors is the main piece of advice a Maple Ridge veterinarian has for pet owners during the current air quality advisory.
A fine particulate matter advisory has been in place by Metro Vancouver since September 8, when smoke blanketed the region due to the Washington and Oregon States wildfires.
Pets are just as affected by the smoke as the human population, explained Dr. Adrian Walton, especially those that are immunocompromised, like elderly pets.
However, owners of brachycephalic breeds like pugs and bulldogs, as well as Persian and Himalayan cats, should be particularly vigilant.
“Their nasal passages are so small they can’t filter out a lot of the debris, it’s just going directly to their lungs,” said Walton adding that since their respiratory systems are already compromised, these conditions are even worse for them.
Cats, he said, are also prone to feline asthma, which can make matters worse.
Panting is one of the main symptoms that can be observed in an animal suffering from the current conditions. Also fatigue.
“Just being more lethargic,” Walton explained.
“If you can’t breathe you are not going to move around much. So you’ll just kind of see them in the corner if they are in distress. They might be breathing normally but they’re just not going to get up and have the gumption they normally would,” he said.
The current air quality conditions are also affecting wild bird populations.
Many wild birds in the United States have died as a direct result of the smoke from the wildfires, said Walton. Across Metro Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, he said, birds are hunkering down.
“You would normally see crows at night, we’re not seeing as much of that. I was on the Sunshine Coast and in an area where there would normally be tons of ravens and seagulls and we barely saw anything,” he said.
The BC SPCA has also issued warnings for pets including the avoidance of vigorous exercise and to make sure they are cool and hydrated.
Since most animals are closer to the ground they can be spared the affects of the smoky conditions, because smoke hovers higher in the air, said the animal rescue agency.
However, cats can be exposed to the smoke when they groom themselves, as smoke can potentially stick to their hair.
If you must take your dog outside, the SPCA recommends taking them out in the morning or later in the evening when the sun isn’t so high in the sky.
In an advisory update on Wednesday, Sept. 16, by Metro Vancouver, the air quality has continued to improve.
However, the agency reported, although ground-level smoke is expected to remain throughout the week, a weather system forecast for Friday is expected to bring further improvements this weekend.
Walton’s advice is to keep pets indoors, if possible, especially if there is air conditioning.
Reduce walk times for dogs and keep them on a leash instead of letting them tear around.
Although, Walton said, dogs will generally self limit themselves if they have respiratory issues.
“If you exert yourself at all in this situation, it’s not a pleasant feeling.”