Does Poor Air Quality Affect Pets?

Hello Dr. B., There have been a lot of wild fires near our town recently, and the air is quite hazy with smoke. Yesterday I...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Jun 16th 2008


Hello Dr. B.,

There have been a lot of wild fires near our town recently, and the air is quite hazy with smoke. Yesterday I took our Lab, Justin, to the park to play fetch and he seemed to tire out much more rapidly than normal. Do you think that the smoky air could have made it hard for him to breathe?

Amy
Chico, CA

I definitely think that the smoke in the air could have affected Justin’s tolerance for exercise.

On days when air quality is poor, health authorities recommend that people (especially older people and people with asthma) stay indoors. And, they recommend against intense exercise, because pollution can cause irritation to the lungs.

Cats and dogs have lungs that are even more sensitive to environmental contamination than ours. Because of this, I think there is an extremely good chance that the smoky air affected Justin’s breathing and adversely impacted his ability to play fetch. I would recommend that you and he avoid strenuous activity until air quality improves.

I have two additional points to make. First, be glad you live in a town like Chico, where air quality usually is good (even if it’s not so great now). I was recently in Guatemala, where emissions controls are nonexistent. Cars, buses, and tuk-tuks all belch huge plumes of black smoke everywhere they go. I easily became winded climbing small hills.

Second, remember there is a small chance that the air quality is not the only problem causing Justin’s inability to exercise. If he continues to seem weak once the smoke has cleared, have a veterinarian look at him to assess his heart, lungs, and other organs.