The guidance that goes for humans also applies to pets: When the air is intensely polluted, limit the time your pet is outside.
“The air we breathe, pets feel it too,” said Dr. Jerry Klein, the chief veterinary officer at the American Kennel Club. Older animals with underlying medical problems, like heart, respiratory or pulmonary conditions, are particularly vulnerable, he said.
Birds are especially at risk because of the construction of their respiratory systems, said Meghan Rebuli, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine who specializes in air pollution. Birds that are exposed to smoke may act lethargic and struggle to breathe; their tails may bob, and they may sit in the bottom of their cages. Those symptoms can manifest days or even weeks after exposure, Dr. Rebuli said.
Watch out for coughing or gagging, particularly in cats, which rarely exhibit these behaviors. The first thing you should do is call your veterinarian if you see those symptoms, Dr. Klein said. If your pet is stumbling or acting more lethargic than usual, you should also reach out to your veterinarian, said Dr. Lori Teller, the president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Take note if your pet seems unable to eat or drink.
You should also call your veterinarian if you notice dogs and cats pawing at their eyes, which indicates irritation; in the meantime, you can saturate a cotton ball with lukewarm water and squeeze it over your animal’s eyes to help flush them out, Dr. Klein said. And keep an ear out for noisy, labored breathing, especially in certain breeds like pugs, which are prone to breathing difficulties. Get them to a vet as soon as possible.
While indoors, keep your windows closed, Dr. Rebuli said, and you may want to keep pets in a room with an air purifier, like one with a HEPA filter.
Make sure your pets are not exercising outside, said Dr. Teller. If you are stuck indoors for prolonged periods, consider playing ball with a dog in a long hallway, if you have the space, or using puzzle toys to help occupy your animal.
You can take dogs out to relieve themselves, but keep it short. “You want to be in and out,” Dr. Klein said.