Dog’s suffer from air pollution the same way humans do. What can be done to protect them from the harmful effects of poor air quality?
Mary Peng of the ICVS gives several tips about the effects of pollution on your pets, and how you can protect your cute pets from the pollution on bad days. “As much as pollution can affect any of us, humans, it has the same dangerous effects on our pets. We see a lot of older animals, and the same concerns that we have for children, the elderly, and the already-compromised, we see those same patients in the animal kingdom” she says.
Outdoor Exercise with Pets in Air Pollution
Exercise is vital for all pets. For larger dogs especially, it is really important to keep them busy. If not, you’ll see their behaviors changing, as they will go crazy from being inside for too long. Peng tell us: “When you go outside, try and pick the times of day when the air is a little bit better. If you wake up in the morning, and like most of us, check your phone for AQI levels, you’ll see that in the morning usually it’s much higher. And then it starts to decrease a little, depending on the winds, so you just have to get a feel for it and really do use these air apps. Then time your walks for your dogs, so that you’re reconfiguring your day a little, and you are making the most of the times of the day when the AQI is much less high. You have to be opportunistic.”
And of course, if you’re going out with your dog, wearing a mask is vital for you. In the future, there will also be a mask for dogs. “Wearing a good mask is also critical for the people, and then we’re also working with a mask manufacturing company, we’re going to be developing a prototype for dogs.” As for cats, cats are mostly indoors and are different, a little bit easier as such, as long as you have good air filtration system in your house the cats will be fine. Also highly important are toys: you’ve got to keep your cats busy. “The cat with the most toys wins,” Peng says.
For cats, the ICVS has cat grass that can be planted indoors, little fluffy mice, or other toys on fishing rods. A cat tree can also be a great source of distraction and entertainment, which is especially important if you’re out of the house during the day. Most other pet stores will also sell a wide array of toys, and you’ll have to see what works for your cat.
If you really can’t leave the house with your dogs very often as a result from the pollution, get them more toys. Bouncing around a little rubber ball is easy enough especially for little dogs that spend more time indoors anyway. One toy that Peng recommends is the puzzle toy. “It expends their energy, gives them something to do for a longer time.”
Changing Dietary Needs
Also, if you’re not going outside with your dog as much, which is the unfortunate reality in times of airpocalypse, don’t feed your dogs the same amount of food, since they’re not using as much energy. In the long run, this is important so as not to overfeed them. If your dog is a snub-nosed breed, elderly, or has a history of respiratory infection, do not take them out too much during times of bad air. Instead, adjust your house for them to get their exercise indoors: Peng even recommends treadmills for dogs. “Teach your dog how to walk on a treadmill. My golden retriever loves a good treadmill, when he was younger he would do ten kilometers on a treadmill at a time!” Of course you’ll have to teach them how to do it, and be there the whole time, but if you start of slowly they will learn and love it.
A Market for Pet Pollution Air Masks
Of course, the market for human face masks is much larger than its canine counterpart, said Christopher Dobbing, the founder and CEO of Cambridge Mask, which already produces a line of colorful face masks for people. “But we want to give desperate pet owners some better options than having to try using human masks on pets, which can be distressing for the animals,” Dobbing told Sixth Tone. Cambridge Mask is currently working on the designs, but expects to produce the first line of canine snout masks before next winter, when air pollution levels are usually higher than in the summer, Dobbing said. “We aim to have them ready before next pollution season,” he said.
The idea for the snout masks came from Mary Peng, CEO and founder of the Beijing-based International Center for Veterinary Services, who approached Dobbing with the proposal. In recent years, Peng has seen more and more dog owners put ordinary face masks over their dogs’ snouts, hoping to protect them from the dangerous ultra-fine PM 2.5 particles that can cause long-term health issues, including lung cancer.
But masks need to fit tightly to be effective, Peng said. “The human masks that exist cannot be manipulated to fit over the snout of a dog properly,” she told Sixth Tone, adding that a number of dog owners have lamented the lack of alternatives. Peng is now helping Cambridge Mask with the research and design for the snout masks. The biggest challenge for the manufacturer, according to Peng, is that unlike humans, dogs’ heads and snouts differ widely in size and shape. In addition to fitting tightly, the masks will need to be big enough to allow the dogs to lick their noses, and the material must be able to absorb moisture from drooling.
Snout Face Mask for Dogs
The designs that Cambridge Mask is working on are based on the five standard sizes of dog muzzles. Each mask will have a printed outer layer covering an inner microfiber filter capable of absorbing tiny PM 2.5-sized particles. Fang Ling, the owner of a 2-year-old Labrador in Chengdu, the capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan province, told Sixth Tone that she worries about the impact of air pollution on her dog’s health, and that she’s excited about the prospect of air pollution masks designed specifically for dogs.
When heavy smog covered the city this past winter, Fang said she searched pet shops around the city, as well as online, for masks to protect her dog from air pollution — to no avail. Masks for humans were not an option, she explained. “If the mask is not designed specifically for dogs,” said Fang, “what’s the point of having my dog wear it?”