Hazy Days of Summer

Hopefully by the time you read this, the wildfire smoke that choked the Rogue Valley this summer has abated. But depending on the wind direction, temperature and humidity, it could quickly return before the fall rains come.

When the skies are hazy and the smell of burning trees assaults your nostrils, it makes sense to limit exposure by keeping pets indoors in an air conditioned environment. Not everyone has AC, however, and some pets and most farm animals live outdoors. And while people with asthma, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory diseases can wear a face mask to decrease their exposure to air irritants, good luck trying to get your cat to wear one.

Other than loading your pets in the SUV and heading to the coast (not a bad idea), what can be done to decrease the adverse effects of the smoke on the animals in our care? Studies have shown that inhalation of wood smoke in significant concentrations causes oxidative stress to the cells lining the airways of the lungs. In this process, irritants and toxins cause the generation of free radicals, which wreak havoc on the sensitive tissues that are so important to normal respiration. The resulting inflammation and altered respiratory functions can cause coughing and difficulty breathing, especially in animals with underlying lung diseases.  In some severe cases, permanent damage can be done to the lungs.

One simple, effective and inexpensive way to combat the oxidative stress resulting from smoke inhalation is with good ol’ vitamin C.  Vitamin C is a potent and very safe antioxidant, which is easy to administer to most animals.  A small dog or cat can take up to 250 mg of Vit C twice a day, and a large dog can take up to 1,500 mg twice a day. Adult horses can take up to 20g a day.  Some animals may experience digestive upset or loose stools at higher doses.  If so, cut back on the dose.  Some animals that reject the sour taste of Vit C will readily accept buffered Vit C (Calcium or sodium ascorbate) mixed in their food.  If your pet seems to be adversely affected by the smoke with coughing or wheezing, a Chinese herb formula called “Clear Mountain Air” by Plum Flower Herbs can be very helpful.  It comes in a bottle of small “tea pills” that are easy to administer to pets.  It’s easy to buy online and at some local health food stores.  Dosage for a cat is 2 tea pills twice a day, whereas a 50-pound dog would need 6-8 twice a day.

Give us a call if you have any questions or concerns about the wildfire smoke and an animal in your care.