How to Keep Your Pets Safe from Poor Air Quality This Summer

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency weighs in on both indoor and outdoor air quality.

Memorial Day weekend means summer is on the way. Warm weather is a welcome reprieve for pet parents who no longer have to worry about shouldering on a jacket before taking their dogs on sun-drenched walks or a weekend camping trip. However, warm weather is also a catalyst for poor air quality, as are some of our favorite summer activities. 

Here’s how to enjoy your summer while keeping your pets safe from poor air quality, with expert advice from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Why Is Poor Air Quality Dangerous for Pets?

Poor air quality can trigger a plethora of problems for our pets, including:

  • Respiratory issues
  • Eye problems
  • Overheating

Pollution is especially harmful to pets (and owners) that have preexisting health conditions such as asthmaallergies, and a smushed face.

5 Causes of Poor Summer Air Quality

Although we all look forward to warmer weather, certain air quality risk factors are more prominent during the summer months, caused by everything from wildfires to your air conditioner. 

Wildfires

We know that wildfire smoke is harmful to both humans and animals. Unfortunately, summertime can encourage the number of wildfires in an area due to more frequent spells of warmer, drier air. And even if you don’t live in an area typically at risk for wildfires, air pollutants caused by wildfires can travel thousands of miles. 

“Animals with heart or lung disease and older pets are especially at risk from smoke and should be closely watched during all periods of poor air quality,” says the EPA. 

Smog

It’s a bird, it’s fog, no—it’s smog. Warm temperatures also aid in the formation of ground-level ozone, known as smog. The EPA has a dedicated air quality guide for when ozone levels are higher than normal, which can help you decide what actions to take for you and your pets and which symptoms of respiratory distress to look out for.

Fireworks

Even though your pets may not love them, fireworks are an integral part of many summertime celebrations. The EPA’s regulatory policies allow fireworks to occur, but if you or your pet are at risk due to heart disease, asthma, etc., watching fireworks from a distance—or at least upwind—can limit your exposure to the additional particle pollution caused by fireworks. 

Outdoor Cooking

Cooking over a campfire or firepit is one of the best parts of summertime, whether you’re on a camping trip or not.

To reduce pollution, the EPA suggests the following guidelines before starting a fire:

  • Only burn seasoned, dry wood, which burns hotter and cleaner.  
  • Use a moisture meter to check firewood; moisture content is best at about 20 percent.
  • Cover stacked wood but allow airflow so it can dry. 
  • Never burn wood during air quality alert days, when air pollution is already higher.
  • Never burn green wood, construction waste, plastic, garbage, or yard waste. They create more smoke and can be toxic.
  • Take extra care if you live in a region where brush fires are of concern.

Air Conditioners

Your AC can provide some welcome relief for you and your pets when the outdoor temperatures skyrocket. But make sure to schedule any necessary maintenance your HVAC system may need, including a filter replacement. HVAC filters are designed to reduce indoor air pollution, which is especially important if outdoor air quality is poor. Dirty filters can become contaminated with harmful bacteria or mold. 

How to Protect Your Pet From Poor Outdoor Air Quality

For healthy and at-risk pets, monitoring poor air quality this summer and beyond is a good idea. For outdoor air quality information, visit AirNow.gov or download the AirNow app to your smartphone.

On days when the outdoor air quality is bad, take the following steps to keep your pets safe:

  • Run an air purifier and/or dehumidifier in your home
  • Keep all windows and doors closed
  • Keep your pets inside and potty breaks short
  • Use indoor enrichment and games to keep them entertained

How to Protect Your Pet From Poor Indoor Air Quality

Improving your indoor air quality will help both you and your pets. The EPA has three basic strategies to improve it:

  • Control the source of the pollution
  • Increase ventilation by regularly opening windows and doors
  • Utilize air cleaners, including portable air purifiers and filters on your HVAC system
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