This has been a difficult year. The isolation and stress of the pandemic have taken a major toll on our mental health. One of the ways that people have been coping with the isolation has been to adopt pets. Shelters across the country have been emptying out as families look for the perfect furbaby to complete their home.
This impulse to seek the company of pets is based on science. If you’re lucky enough to have a pet, you already understand how their unconditional love can be an enormous boost to your mental health. Pets can help alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness…. All of which have been heightened during the pandemic.
Our pets give so much to us, it’s important that we remember to take care of them as well. You already know that your pet needs regular vet visits, nutritious food, and exercise to keep them in shape, but did you know that air quality is also a major factor in your pet’s health?
Why is your pets’ air quality at risk?
Fumes from cars and trucks, diesel fuels, coal, gasoline, wildfires, power plants, construction, and livestock are all contaminating you and your pets’ air. And that’s just outdoors!
Indoor air is even more polluted…. Up to 5 times more in fact! That’s because indoor air contains a combination of pollutants that seep in from outside and those that we create from indoor human activity. Tobacco smoke, cooking, scented products, and heating sources like wood burning fireplaces all contribute to dirtying the air that our furry friends are breathing.
Considering that pets (like their humans) spend most of their time indoors, indoor air quality can have a major impact on their health.
How does poor air quality affect your pets?
While much research has been done about the relationship between human health and air pollution, scientists only recently began looking at how poor air quality affects animals. What they found is troubling.
Dogs seem to be especially vulnerable to outdoor pollutants. Studies found that dogs that lived in homes where outdoor pesticides were used had a 70 percent higher chance of developing lymphoma.
Another study conducted on dogs in Mexico City (one of the most polluted cities in the world) found the same proteins in their brain as are seen in Alzheimer’s patients.
Indoors, pets face another host of health problems. Recent studies confirmed that dogs that live in homes where incense was regularly burned were more likely to suffer from respiratory illness.
Cats may be even more sensitive to indoor pollutants. Research shows that cats that live in homes with a high concentration of household indoor air pollutants (second-hand smoke, cooking fumes, household chemicals) have a higher rate of respiratory diseases such as feline asthma, chronic bronchitis, and lung cancer. In fact, scientists in one study found that one in ten cats have asthma directly related to indoor and outdoor air pollutants.
Which pets are most susceptible to health problems from poor air quality?
Doctors at DoveLewis animal hospital in Portland Oregon have treated many animals affected by poor air quality from wildfires. They noted that, while all pets are at risk from low-quality air, certain animals such as puppies and older dogs, pets with asthma and bronchitis, and dogs with rounder faces and shorter noses (like bulldogs and Boston terriers) are particularly vulnerable.
Pets displaying the following symptoms need immediate care:
- Difficulty breathing
- Unusual or excessive coughing, sneezing, vomiting, or loss of appetite
- Swelling or inflammation of the mouth, eyes, skin, or upper airway
- Open-mouthed breathing, especially in cats
- Uncoordinated walking/unable to stand
- Increased salivation
What can you do to keep your pets safe?
We all wish we could give our pets the clean air and open spaces that they deserve. But, that just isn’t always a realistic option. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to minimize your pets’ risk, no matter where you live.
To minimize your pets’ exposure to outdoor pollutants:
- Avoid exercising your pets in high-traffic areas. Walk near water and trees and away from roads whenever possible.
- Walk your pets in the morning, when ozone levels are lower.
- Be careful of the products you use in your yard. Ask at your garden store for less toxic alternatives to chemical pesticides.
- Check your air quality before going out.
- Go outside in the mornings, when ozone levels are lower.
To minimize your pets’ exposure to indoor pollutants:
- Vacuum frequently to remove pet hair and other indoor air pollutants.
- Avoid smoking indoors.
- Use healthy, nontoxic cleaning products.
- Don’t use indoor wood fireplaces.
- Select environmentally friendly cleaning products
- Ensure that gas stoves are well-ventilated.
- Keep windows and doors open as much as possible.
While all of these measures can help reduce pollutants, perhaps the most important thing you can do to ensure that your pets are breathing clean air is to purchase an air purifier. A high-quality air purifier will remove pollutants such as dust, mold, and smoke from the air, giving your furry friends the healthy air they need to live a long and happy life. For even better protection and a fresher smelling home, look for a purifier that combines an activated charcoal filter with a HEPA filter to remove both gases and particulate matter from your indoor air.