Caring for your pets – during and after a fire

By Shana LiVigni

There are billows of smoke seen along the Louisiana skyline – smoke that drifted across the nation from the Station fire here in the Foothill communities. The smoke and ash over the past few weeks were so overwhelming, it was hard to warrant leaving your home or apartment.

Residents were told to stay inside and to bring their pets indoors as well. Our respiratory systems are not equipped to handle the toxins and particulates that are still looming around us, even if we can’t see the smoke. Animals suffer, too. They are even more acute to the smells than humans and experience irritation of the upper and lower respiratory tracts.

“When the air is smoky, I recommend that pet owners keep their pets indoors with a filtered conditioned air,” suggests James D. Speas, DVM of the Crescenta- Cañada Pet Hospital in La Crescenta. “Do not encourage any outdoor activity other than bathroom duties until the air quality improves. [The week of the fire], I saw some people with masks on, walking their dogs. If you are uncomfortable with the air, it is likely your pet is too. If your pet is showing signs of increased respiratory rate, even at rest, and is lethargic, this is a condition that should be seen by a veterinarian as more serious respiratory conditions may exist.”

There are a few treatments you can try to help respiratory tract irritation. Increasing the humidity in the air helps with breathing problems, in both pets and humans. Running a room humidifier, placing your pet in the bathroom when you shower or just turning on the cold water in the shower to humidify the air may help your pet breathe easier. Do not give your pets cough syrup or expectorants. That action is entirely up to, and under supervision of, your veterinarian.

Corrin Bailey, a groomer/ pet stylist at Bath & Biscuit in Montrose, noticed an unusual problem directly related to the fires. “Some of our regular dogs that come in for grooming have been acting on edge,” she said. “They usually are fine on the grooming table, but now are shaky. The smell of fires and smoke play havoc with them.” She also noticed an increase in fleas on the pets.

As the wild animals move away from the fires, sometimes moving toward homes, their fleas can jump to nearby yards and pets.

“You can tell if your pet has fleas by checking the base of their tail,” Bailey points out. “If you see black spots, that could be dried blood from flea bites.” Checking your animals for fleas, especially in the heat, is important to their well-being. Over-the-counter medications like Frontline comes in a vial that is applied topically on the top shoulder blade of a dog or cat where it is absorbed into their oil glands, fending off fleas. Bailey said applying mineral oil on your pet’s eyes can relieve redness and irritation. She added that there’s nothing like a good bath with natural ingredients.

Grooming clinics like Wag My Tail in Tujunga do extensive grooming in a very large facility where animals feel more relaxed by having some space from other animals. They also provide a mobile grooming service if you have trouble getting your pets to travel.