How Dogs Are Affected By Wildfire Smoke
Fortunately, in most West Coast communities that suffered from record high unhealthy or hazardous air last week because of wildfires, the air quality is back to normal this week. However, fire season is still with us and pet parents should remain vigilant about how smoke might affect their furry best friends should the fires intensify again, or new fires ignite.
You may have noticed some changes in your dog’s behavior due to the smoke from the recent fires. By taking your dog out on a walk with heavy smoke, you are not only being exposed to poor air quality, but it can cause your dog stress. Here’s why your dog may have reacted:
- When a dog smells smoke their natural survival instincts kick in, as smoke means danger.
- Dogs would never venture away from the safety of their den or home if they smell smoke unless the fire was close.
Common behaviors that your dog may have exhibited due to the smoke:
You may have noticed that your dog has been barking more frequently. When their fear, (due to the smoke), has been triggered, dogs are more likely to be on the alert for other dangers. It’s natural for them to bark more when their fear is elevated.
Nervous to go outside to go potty
Some dogs are nervous to go outside to go potty, especially puppies. They may be hesitant to step outside into the yard and may have been waiting for you to go out first. This is a normal reaction, as puppies need extra reassurance that the fire isn’t too close and that it’s safe to go out. You can give them comfort by stepping outside first and staying outside with them.
Anxious on a walk
Your dog may have been putting on the breaks during your walks. Some dogs will freeze and refuse to walk any further away from home. While other dogs may pull the leash, leading you back home. It’s important to honor their fear and need to get back to the safety of the house.
Increased separation anxiety
Has your dog’s separation anxiety increased? Your dog believes that it isn’t safe to go outside, so they naturally want you to stay in the comfort and safety of the house with them. It’s critical not to make a big fuss about leaving and returning, as this will only cause your dog to be more concerned about you leaving.
Once the smoke has cleared it may take a while for your dog’s behavior to change. Think of it like going through a traumatic event; it can take time to process and feel safe and secure again. Dogs, like humans, need time to decompress and realize that they are safe, and their family is out of harm’s way.
For more info
See our infographic about how to protect your pets from wildfire smoke.