You might already be aware of how the haze affects you, from respiratory issues to skin breakouts and watery eyes. But have you stopped to think how bad air quality has been affecting your pets?
Yes, we’re not the only ones who have to deal with unhealthy PSI levels. The next time haze returns with a vengeance – and you know it will – remember that it could be challenging for your furry or feathered friends, too. And the smaller they are, the more susceptible they are to problems.
“Smaller animals are at greater risk of smoke inhalation due to their smaller lung capacity," said Dr Jaipal Singh Gill, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Singapore.
For small pets such as rabbits, hamsters or parakeets at home, you'll want to be more vigilant in checking for breathing difficulties, teary eyes and/or nasal discharge during the haze period. If your pet shows any of these signs, take it to the vet immediately.
WHY IT'S IMPORTANT TO KEEP YOUR PETS COOL
Regardless of size, it’s also important to keep your pet cool to avoid heat stress, emphasised veterinarian Dr Denise Ng from Light of Life Veterinary Clinic and Services.
"During this time, the dust and smoke your pets inhale can cause inflammation in their respiratory system," she said. "Even mild inflammation will cause their mucus and saliva to thicken."
As animals rely on panting and breathing to keep cool, your pets' ability to regulate heat is compromised when this happens, said Dr Ng. This is not good news for your pets as it then starts a vicious cycle of them panting or breathing harder to reduce body heat, which leads to more smoke and ash inhalation, and the further thickening of their mucus and saliva.
You may already avoid taking your dog out in the blazing afternoon heat on non-haze days but during this period, it is even more important to avoid doing so, “especially if your dogs have extra blubber and long fluffy fur coats which do not allow efficient heat dissipation,” noted Dr Ng.
If you must take your pet out, keep the walks brief and reduce the intensity if possible, said Dr Gill. "As our pets still need regular exercise, provide some form of activity indoors until the haze clears."
HYDRATION IS KEY
Water is especially crucial to your pets' wellbeing on hazy days as it helps to remove the thickened layer of mucus in their respiratory system. Adequate hydration will also reduce the animal's blood viscosity and optimise its ability to regulate heat, said Dr Ng.
Make sure your pet is given cooled water before and after the outing. In fact, “ensure that your pets drink cooled water throughout the day,” said Dr Ng. “Add ice cubes into fresh water to encourage drinking."
For rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters, she recommended providing them with half-frozen water bottles. “Encourage your parrots to shower and eat more fresh vegetables and fruits,” she said.
But if there’s one thing you shouldn’t do, it’s to make your cat or dog wear a mask. In an Instagram post, the SPCA wrote that doing so “might prevent heat from being dispelled and cause a heat stroke”.
Besides keeping your pet indoors as much as possible, there are other things you can do to make the haze situation more bearable for your pet. For instance, switch on the air-conditioner, air purifier or fan at home, advised Dr Gill. "Turn on the fan for your pets especially when you are not at home," said Dr Ng.
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If you notice your fur kid’s coat getting dustier than usual, Ricky Yeo, president and resident consultant of Action for Dogs, suggested wiping it daily with baby wipes. But do not be tempted to bathe your dog more often than you usually do, said Yeo. Doing so may dry out its skin and result in a dry rash.
Like humans, extra precautions need to be taken if you have a senior pet, a pet with compromised immunity, or one with a pre-existing respiratory or cardiovascular disease, said Dr Gill.
If your pet has an existing kidney issue or medical condition that requires fluid therapy, and isn't doing well in this weather, seek immediate medical attention for intravenous fluid therapy (IVF) "to improve blood circulation, reduce the internal core temperature and allow rehydration," said Dr Ng.
“Untreated heat stress can lead to multiple organ failure, seizures and death within 24 to 48 hours,” she said.
Bring your pet to the vet for a check if you're uncertain of the signs it is displaying.