How to protect your pets from Canadian wildfire smoke

A woman jogs with a dog along the Hudson River, with the air murky and the sun seen dark orange against the high-rises in the distance.
A woman jogs along the Hudson River shortly after sunrise, as haze and smoke caused by wildfires in Canada hang over the Manhattan skyline on Wednesday. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Canadian wildfires have triggered air quality alerts across much of the Northeastern U.S., particularly in New York City. So what does that mean for furry and feathered friends?

Wildfire smoke and pets

Experts say that if you feel the effects of smoke, your pets are probably experiencing it too. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says that any of these symptoms mean it’s time to contact your vet:

  • Coughing or difficulty breathing

  • Irritated, red or watery eyes

  • Fatigue or disorientation

  • Lack of appetite or reduced thirst

AVMA says that birds are particularly susceptible. Brachycephalic dog breeds, such as pugs and bulldogs, as well as puppies and older dogs, are also at increased risk of the ill effects of inhaling smoke, according to the American Kennel Club.

How to protect your pets

A man walks his dog on a boardwalk, with the skyline i the distance shrouded by polluted air.
A man walks his dog Tuesday in New York City . (Selcuk Acar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The best way to keep your pets safe from wildfire smoke is to stay indoors, according to experts.

“Everyone has things and schedules they are trying to keep, trying to maintain their daily routines. But as someone who's gone through wildfire episodes that lasted a full month at a time in California, the best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family — including your pets — is really to make sure that you're limiting your time outdoors, staying to the extent possible in clean indoor spaces,” William Barrett, national senior director of clean air advocacy with the American Lung Association, told Yahoo News reporter Marquise Francis.

The AVMA offers the following tips:

  • Keep windows and doors shut.

  • Keep pets indoors as much as possible, allowing cats and dogs outside only for brief bathroom breaks while air quality alerts are in effect.

  • Don’t allow pets to do any heavy outdoor exercise until smoke and dust have settled.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends keeping indoor air clean by avoiding frying foods, burning candles, smoking or doing any activities that could add particles to your home.

High-quality filtration masks like N95s can protect humans from fine particles in wildfire smoke. But the CDC and AVMA have advised against putting masks on pets — despite a spike in pet mask sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. Masks can be distressing for animals and make it more difficult for them to breathe.