Air Pollution Risks to Pets

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Understand how air pollution can affect your pet and how you can prevent health issues.

Most people are aware that pollution, in general, is not healthy. Bad air quality can cause respiratory damage and creates a greater risk of cardiovascular diseases. While many scientific studies show the negative effects on the health of humans, there is growing evidence that air pollution is also bad for our pets. So, what are the risks of harm posed to pets due to poor air quality, and what can be done to reduce the harm?   

What is Air Pollution?

Air pollution is the broad term used to describe a range of airborne pollutants that are harmful to humans, animals, plants and the environment. Pollutants can take many forms including chemicals, gases, solid particles or liquid droplets. Air pollution comes from a variety of sources including both human-made pollutants and natural sources. Not surprisingly, air pollution is more prevalent in urban areas because the emissions from various sources are more concentrated. This may not apply during seasons when wildfires are more prevalent and smoke can span large swaths of the atmosphere. 

Similarly, many types of indoor air pollution that comes from various sources also pose health risks. Some sources of indoor air pollution are natural such as radon gas which is released by the Earth and can build up in homes. Other common pollutants found indoors are due to insulation, mold, or smoking. Needless to say, it would be difficult to completely avoid exposure to air pollution. However, efforts can be made to reduce the harm caused by air pollution.   

How Harmful is Air Pollution to Pets?

Unfortunately, many scientific studies have confirmed that pets can be harmed by air pollution. Studies have found dogs that lived in homes where outdoor pesticides were used had a 70 percent higher chance of developing lymphoma, and 33 percent of the dogs were diagnosed with canine malignant lymphoma, a form of cancer.1 Cats that lived in homes with a high concentration of household indoor air pollutants (second-hand smoke, cooking fumes, household chemicals) had a higher rate of respiratory disease such as feline asthma, chronic bronchitis and lung cancer.2 

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Pets frequently outdoors can also become prone to the negative health effects caused by pollution. Outdoor dogs exposed to heavy air pollution had increased brain inflammation and the presence of proteins that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease in humans.1 Whereas, one in ten cats were diagnosed with asthma related to indoor and outdoor air pollutants, and cats that lived in homes with smokers had severely decreased lung function.1

How to Reduce the Harmful Effects of Air Pollution on Your Pets

By recognizing the source of poor air quality, you can take steps to protect your entire family, including your furry family members from negative effects of air pollution. To reduce the harm caused by indoor air pollution, it’s important to improve the air quality by doing the following: 

  • Change air filters regularly
  • Vacuum frequently
  • Do not smoke indoors
  • Find pet-friendly and/or environment-friendly cleaning products
  • Use air conditioning and/or air purifiers (with clean filters)

Steps to reduce the risk of outdoor air pollution include: 

  • Avoid exercising your pet near high-traffic areas
  • Do not use chemical pesticides in the yard
  • When the air quality is poor outside, keep pets indoors with short trips outdoors
  • Keep pets well hydrated
  • Time short walks outdoors when the air quality is best. 

By following a few simple steps, you can reduce the risk of harm to your pets posed by air pollution. If you notice your pet is having any problems breathing, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. Furthermore, if your pet is having difficulty breathing, or is struggling to breath under normal circumstances, you should seek emergency medical attention. While we may not be able to protect our pets completely from air pollution, we can ensure the health and safety of our pets with regular check-ups and a Pets Best insurance policy designed to provide the best possible care.

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1 Minnesota Pollution control Agency (2016). Does air pollution affect our furry friends? Retrieved from

2 Lin, C. H., Lo, P. Y., Wu, H. D., Chang, C., & Wang, L. C. (2018). Association between indoor air pollution and respiratory disease in companion dogs and cats. Journal of veterinary internal medicine32(3), 1259–1267.

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