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WSU veterinarians: Smoke harmful to pets, too

A horse looks out at a smoke filled sky.
One of the members of WSU’s horse herd gazes out at the smoke-filled sky.

If it is unsafe for you to be outside, Washington State University veterinarians say it’s also unsafe for your animals.

Due to widespread smoke and haze, the Washington Department of Ecology has issued an air quality alert for all of Washington state east of the Cascades. The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality issued a similar advisory for the northern Idaho panhandle.

The alert was expected to remain in place at least until 10 a.m. Monday, Aug. 16.

“I would take the same precautions for pets that you would take for you and your family,” said Dr. Jessica Bell, a small animal veterinarian at WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Bell said keeping animals out of the smoke as much as possible is best case, but if they must be outside, pet owners should limit that time if possible.

Heavy breathing is worse for animals in smoky conditions and any strenuous exercise should be avoided, she said.

For horse owners, the best advice is “don’t ride,” said Jen Gold, a WSU equine veterinarian.

“Physical activity, especially any strenuous exercise could be detrimental to the health of your horse,” Dr. Gold said.

Water bowls and feed for animals can pick up pollutants, especially those outdoors.

“If their water is contaminated with what’s in the air, they may hesitate to drink it next time,” Gold said. “Rinsing hay or other feed with water lightly will help clear the food of the smoke’s particles.”

Gold recommends changing water at the same time as feeding because horses tend to drink most within about two hours of eating.

Bell recommends monitoring elderly pets with respiratory conditions when smoke is lingering.

“Look for any discomfort, coughing, heavy breathing; sometimes conditions like these aggravate other problems,” she said.

Bell said with so many smoke particles in the air, now is the worst time for a dog to have its head out of the window of a vehicle, noting smoke irritates the face and eyes of animals.

If animals are showing signs of discomfort, it is best to consult your regular veterinarian.

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