Is it OK to walk your dog in Charlotte? What to do with pets during air quality crisis

As wildfires in Canada continue to burn, smoke and harmful particles have led to unhealthy air quality conditions that could affect you and your pets.

Air quality in Charlotte currently sits at 47, which is considered “good,” according to Air Quality Index metrics on the air quality measuring website AirNow.

However, air quality is expected to reach levels that are “unhealthy for sensitive groups” by Thursday afternoon, according to AirNow.

While people have been advised to wear masks, limit outdoor activities and even avoid going outside at all, animals and pets need protection, too.

Animals with heart or lung disease should be closely monitored during periods of poor air quality, air quality experts say.

Pets can go outside for short bathroom breaks when air quality alerts are in effect, but they should avoid long walks outdoors, Duke Health pulmonologist Dr. Aaron Vose told The News & Observer.

Here are some symptoms to watch for in your pet, and how to reduce their exposure to smoke.

Symptoms to look for in pets

Coughing, wheezing and excessive panting are all signs to look out for during periods of bad air quality, Dr. Jay Hreiz, veterinarian and owner of Queen City Animal Hospital, told The Charlotte Observer.

You should contact your veterinarian if your pet experiences any of the following symptoms:

  • Coughing or gagging

  • Red or watery eyes

  • Nasal discharge

  • Inflammation of throat or mouth

  • Reluctance to eat hard foods

  • Fatigue, weakness or disorientation

  • Reduced appetite or thirst

Certain types of dogs with smaller faces, such as French bulldogs and English bulldogs, are more susceptible to respiratory symptoms, Hreiz said.

“They’re just going to have a harder time in general, in hot, humid air,” said Hreiz. “If you add in lots of particulate matter, it’s going to be even more difficult.”

How to reduce pet exposure to smoke

To reduce your pets’ exposure to smoke, Hreiz said owners should keep windows in their homes closed and change their air conditioning filters every three to six months to prevent harmful particles from getting inside.

“Make sure they are graded for animal hair and dander, just because regular filters don’t have those settings on them a lot of the time,” he added.

It is also recommended that pet owners keep the air in their homes as clean as possible by avoiding activities like frying foods, vacuuming, burning candles and using fireplaces.