By Gordon Williams
Photos by: Jen Blackwood
We certainly love our pets: How else to explain why Americans own an estimated 78 million dogs and 86 million cats.
Because you do love your pets, and want to keep them healthy and happy, you should know about two recent news items dealing with animal health.
The first was a warning from the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine that smoke from regional wildfires poses as serious a threat to pet health as it does to the health of their human owners. “Advisories meant to caution people to avoid heavy work or exercise outdoors and to remain indoor as much as possible, also should be applied to our pets,” says Dr. Robert Dyke of the Community Practice Service of WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
The second was the American Red Cross announcement of its new online Cat and Dog First Aid course–aimed at teaching pet owners, pet sitters and dog walkers what to do in an emergency until veterinary care is available. That course complements the Red Cross Pet First Aid App–available free and providing pet owners with online access to expert animal care advice.
Smoke from wildfires has been widespread in the region recently. Since the wildfire season lasts through early autumn, hazardous air quality remains a threat for weeks to come.
A first step to keeping pets safe is knowing when air quality is likely to be the worst and timing walks and exercise accordingly. Smoke tends to disperse somewhat during daylight hours and to worsen at night as it settles closer to the ground. But Dyke cautions that, “On really severe days, designated with a red air quality warning, maybe a quick outing in the yard is best. By all means, avoid intensive exercise during periods of poor air quality.”
How can you tell when your pet is feeling the effects of hazardous air pollution? Among the most visible symptoms are:
- increased coughing
- difficulty breathing
- eye irritation and excessive watering
- a dry irritated throat
- nasal discharge
What if your pet isn’t four-footed? It turns out that pet birds are extremely susceptible to respiratory distress from smoky air. “Birds need to remain indoors as much as possible during the highest level advisories,’ says Nickol Finch, who heads the veterinary college’s Exotic Animal and Wildlife section.
Finally, take extra precautions with pets diagnosed with lung or heart problems. As with humans, smoke and dust in the air presents an increased hazard to these animals.
The new Red Cross pet first aid course is available online at redcross.org/catdogfirstaid. You can expect to spend about 30 minutes going through the course. Here’s what you’ll learn:
- How to monitor your pet’s vital signs so you can spot problems early.
- How to provide first aid in pet medical emergencies–if the animal is choking, for example, or needs CPR, is wounded or having a seizure.
- Tips on preventative care to keep your pet healthy
Once you have completed the first aid course, you can further enhance your pet-care skills by downloading the Red Cross Pet First Aid App. It is available free from the Apple App store and the Google Play store. Or you can access it by texting GETPET to 90999,
The app gives you instant access to pet-health advice. It can also help you find animal hospitals and pet friendly hotels and advise you on including pets in your family emergency preparedness planning.
You can download the first aid app to any device, but installing it in your smartphone means you always have expert pet care advice at your fingertips.