SPOKANE, Wash --- Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine recommends that animal owners be aware that wildfire smoke advisories, issued by county and municipal health districts for people, apply to animals, too.

Now through early fall, wildfire season conditions are varying from unhealthy to hazardous levels for people, particularly as winds shift and air quality changes. Pets and other animals should be protected from potential dangers of smoke inhalation as well.

“Advisories meant to caution people to avoid heavy work or exercise outdoors and to remain indoors as much as possible, also should be applied to our pets. Mammals lungs are all very similar, and some in other species like birds are extremely sensitive to particulates in the air,” said member of the Community Practice Service of WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Dr. Robert Dyke.

Advisories show winds shifting and possibly bringing more smoke from a number of regional fires. Dryland harvest is also underway, which naturally puts more dust in the air, according to the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine. Smoke tends to worsen at night as it settles into valleys and low-lying areas and it disperses somewhat during daylight hours.

“Pet owners who must walk or exercise pets outdoors should look for times of the day when smoke and dust settle as much as possible. On really severe days, designated with a red air quality warning, maybe only a quick outing in the yard is best. By all means, though, avoid intensive exercise during these periods of poor air quality,” said Dr. Dyke.

The head of the WSU veterinary college’s Exotic Animal and Wildlife section, Nickol Finch, had this to say about birds and the air quality too.

“Birds need to remain indoors as much as possible during the highest-level advisories. People have a mistaken belief that because animals originated in the wild, they have developed some mysterious superpowers that allow them to tolerate any condition. That’s not true. Birds, especially pet birds are extremely susceptible to respiratory insult from smoke and particulates in the air,” said Finch.

The college’s board-certified internal medicine and cardiac specialists also recommend paying more attention to pets that have been diagnosed with lung or heart disease. Just like humans with such conditions, smoke and dust in the air represents an increased hazard for those patients.

Symptoms of smoke or dust irritation can include:

-increased coughing

-difficulty breathing

-eye irritation and excessive watering

-a dry, irritated throat

-nasal discharge

-chest pains

-asthma-like symptoms

-increased heart rate

-increased fatigue

For animals that cannot be sheltered indoors such as livestock or horses, these signs can signal increasing respiratory distress in those species. Large animals however seem to deal with wildfire smoke better than pets.

You can check air quality at the Spokane Clean Air site here.