Protecting pets from wildfire smoke

Posted at 6:35 PM, Sep 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-06 20:35:23-04

BILLINGS — Most pet owners know to keep pets safe during extreme temperatures in summer months, but wildfires and poor air quality can also affect your and your furry friends' health.

For Tom English and his dog Schatzi, a trip to the dog park these days can be, well, ruff.

“The smoke with the heat isn’t good for her, and it’s not good for me,” English said Tuesday at the Centennial Dog Park on Billings West End.

The thick smoke that has moved into south-central Montana is taking a toll on people and pets. The federal government's Air Quality Index states that a ranking from 101 to 150 is considered unhealthy for animals. In recent days, Billings has reached levels over 100.

“I do notice also with the smoke that she’s ready to leave [the park] a lot sooner than she normally would be,” English said.

Billings area veterinarians see a spike in respiratory issues when skies get smoky this time of year, with animals experiencing “excessive coughing, and with dry smoke, it would be a dry cough,” said Dr. Sarah Bruggeman with Billings Animal Family Hospital.

Bruggeman says there are some precautions all pet owners can take.

“Keeping our windows closed, running the AC and actually a humidifier can really help because then that’s going to help keep the air moisturized and less irritating to the airway tracks,” Bruggeman said.

She also said older animals are most impacted by the smoke, along with puppies and cats. But just like people, she says any animal can suffer health problems breathing in the smoky air, which is why she encourages all pet owners to keep a close eye on their animals during the smoky days.

“Sneezing, goopy eyes from the dry pollen or the smoke causing kind of just mild respiratory issues” are just a few things your pet may experience during the wildfire seasons, Bruggeman said.

Unless there are underlying health conditions, the effects in your pets shouldn’t be life-threatening, she said.

But Tom English isn’t taking chances. He and Schatzi are still playing at the park but much earlier in the day before the heat and smoke collide.

During the hot afternoons, English said he makes sure to "just watch her [and] keep her in the air conditioning.”