While the sunsets might be beautiful, the haze from the forest fires isn’t very good for our health – or our pets. We aren’t used to this smoky atmosphere that reminds us of 90s Los Angeles. Thankfully Vancouver is not hit as hard as the interior but we still need to be careful of the air quality.

We know breathing in a lot of smoke is not good for you, but how bad are the current air conditions?

Our bodies have mechanics in place to naturally filter out particles from the air. These include our nasal passage, mucus lining, and small hairs in our airways called cilia that break down and collect foreign materials to make it easier to breath.

It takes a lot to overcome our body’s natural defence system so we really only have to worry about our dogs and cats who have health problems and may be aggravated by the smoke particles in the air.

The main problems fall into three main categories – respiratory, cardiovascular, and eye conditions.

Respiratory Conditions

Feline asthma is one of the most common problems you’ll likely see. Smoke can trigger asthma attack so if your cat has a history of asthma, you should keep an eye on the signs. If you notice your cat has trouble breathing, you should take them to the vet. If your cat is on medication, the vet might increase the does slightly until these smoky conditions subside. If they aren’t on any medication, the vet might consider giving them something. Do not give your cat any medication unless specified by your vet. This will prevent a crisis and keep your cat feeling happy and healthy.

Dogs and cats with pneumonia or bronchitis also need to be monitored closely.

Cardiovascular Conditions

Dogs and cats with heart murmurs, hypertension, congestive heart failure, are also at an increased health risk of complications and should be watched closely. Avoid stressing them out, as this will put additional load on the cardiovascular system. Take shorter walks with your dog, either early in the morning or late in the evening. Heat is another stress on their system, and avoid playing with your cat and dog while it’s hot and smoky. Let them do what they do best: relax!

Eye Conditions

Another condition that is less common but may be exacerbated by the smoke is something called Dry-Eye. The technical term for Dry-Eye is keratoconjunctivitis sicca , but any patient receiving eye medications should be on high alert. This includes cats and dogs being treated for eye ulcers, or conjunctivitis. Because the smoke is an irritant increased frequency of medication up to every two hours may prove useful, and some delay in healing may be expected.

If you are really concerned about the air quality, a HEPA air filter can be bought at most hardware stores. Typically only the higher end air purifiers have a HEPA filter, but they are not terribly expensive and are easy to find. HEPA filters are effective at filtering smoke and dust particles and can appreciably improve air quality in your home. They also make nice fans for the heat.

The smoke from B.C.’s forest fires probably don’t have a long-term effect on the health of your pet. However if you have a pet with respiratory, cardiovascular disease, or eye conditions, you should monitor them for symptoms like coughing, difficulty breathing, eye redness, irritation or discharge. If you witness any of these, don’t hesitate to take your pet to a vet. Follow these guidelines and you shouldn’t have to worry too much about the air condition in Vancouver.

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