With wildfires currently burning thousands of acres across southern California, many dog owners are left wondering whether it’s safe to let their animals outside. If you have a dog in a fire-ridden area, you’re right to be concerned about air quality.
What to Know About Air Quality
The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a measurement of five specific components of the air including particulate matter, ozone, carbon monoxide, and more. Smoke is made up of fine particulates. AirNow, the government’s online air quality database, expresses the current quality index as both a color and a number. The levels include:
|0 to 50||Good||Green|
|51 to 100||Moderate||Yellow|
|101 to 150||Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups||Orange|
|151 to 200||Unhealthy||Red|
|201 to 300||Very Unhealthy||Purple|
|301 to 500||Hazardous||Maroon|
If the air quality is anywhere above 150, you should be concerned about your pet’s exposure.
You Smell Smoke in the Air…What Should You Do?
Here in California, strong winds can carry smoky air hundreds of miles. If you yourself can smell smoke or feel a burning sensation in your eyes, the air quality is likely at least slightly unhealthy. The more smoke you can smell and see, the worse the air quality.
If the air quality is measuring between 100-150, it’s likely safe for your dog to be outdoors for a limited period of time, such as to go to the bathroom. If the air quality is compromised in any way, do not expect your dog to exercise vigorously outdoors. Avoid prolonged exposure for both your safety and his.
Remember that older, sickly, and very young dogs are more susceptible to changes in air quality. Brachycephalic dogs with “smooshed” snouts might also have a harder time breathing when conditions are poor. If your dog seems groggy, is having trouble breathing, or is squinting his eyes, take him inside. If his condition does not return to normal within a few minutes, contact a vet.
What to do if the Air is Bad for Days
If the air quality in your area is poor for a number of days, try your best to give your dog some exercise in doors. Of course, it’s imperative you keep your windows and doors closed at all times; running your air conditioner is fine as most HVAC systems don’t reincorporate outside air.
Unless the air quality is truly too poor for you to stand outside comfortably, it’s fine to take your dog to the bathroom at regular intervals. Just do so quickly, and be sure your dog doesn’t eat or aggressively sniff anything on the ground as smoke particulates may have settled there over time.