Every year in southern Alberta we experience a smoky atmosphere at some point during the summer because of wild fires. Unfortunately this year the smoke hazard has come particularly early. Let’s not forget that ALL living creatures are affected by a smoky environment to a lesser or greater extent so we should act appropriately when it comes to our dogs. Just because dogs can’t speak to us about how the smoke is affecting them doesn’t mean that smoke is OK for them. Watch for both physical signs (e.g. burning eyes, congestion or breathing issues, loss of appetite, coughing, sneezing or vomiting, difficulty standing or walking, confusion, increased salivation, fainting or, worse yet, seizures to name but a few) as well as your dog’s body language telling you that something is not right. Smoke can be especially damaging to those with respiratory illnesses, brachycephalic dogs like pugs or bulldogs, puppies and senior dogs.
Some ways you can help keep your dog safe are:
•Keep your pets indoors.
•Limit their time outside to short potty breaks or general visits outside.
•Keep windows and doors closed.
•Do not do any extraneous exercise outside, including visits to the off-leash park, games of fetch or running. The more strenuous the exercise, the more particulate matter dogs are breathing into their lungs.
•Ensure they have access to fresh water and are staying well-hydrated.
This is all very well I hear you say but my dog needs exercise and the chance to burn off energy. You are absolutely right but, if the environment outside is not conducive to achieving this, focus on indoor activities such as the following:
Take your dog to an indoor doggy daycare or day school or rent an indoor facility with a few friends.
If this is not viable, consider home-based activities such as:
•Games like “hide and go seek” or “go fetch”, particularly up and down the stairs.
•Training routines like “stay and come”. This one not only helps with physical exercise but stimulates your dog’s mind by having to figure out where you are hiding.
•Playing fetch and teach your dog to drop the object in their mouth once they bring it to you.
•Nose work: this could involve finding a particular object, which, for example a Kong, contains treats for the dog to figure out how to extract.
•Teaching your dog new tricks, many of which can be found on the internet. This will help with your dog’s mental stimulation.
•Buy your dog a new toy from the pet store.
No-one enjoys living in a smoky environment but life has to go on regardless. However much we want to experience the great outdoors with our dog, do not compromise either yourself or your dog by exposing either to harmful smoke. Too many dogs end up getting sick because owners don’t think through the implications of walking their dogs outside in smoky conditions. Dog’s lungs carry out the same function as a humans: don’t compromise their ability to breathe properly!