Is smoke inhalation bad for dogs? A Complete Guide

What are the signs of smoke inhalation?

Signs of smoke inhalation vary, depending on how much smoke was inhaled, how long the dog remained in smoky conditions, what chemicals were present in the smoke, etc. A pet exposed to small amounts of smoke for a brief period of time will have very different clinical signs than a dog confined in an extremely smoky room for a prolonged period of time.

The heat and irritants contained within smoke can also cause significant damage to the eyes. Dogs may squint due to pain, the third eyelid may remain up over the eye, and you may also notice inflammation and redness of the eyes (conjunctivitis).

Burns may be seen around the face and muzzle. These burns may blister, or may appear as reddened, inflamed areas. If the nostrils are burned, you may notice nasal discharge or visible blisters within the nostrils.

If the brain is deprived of oxygen due to smoke inhalation, pets may show neurologic signs. Neurologic signs are common with carbon monoxide inhalation. Signs include weakness, ataxia (impaired coordination, or walking as if drunk), seizures, and/or coma. Dogs may drool excessively or vomit. Dogs with carbon monoxide inhalation also tend to develop cherry red discoloration of the gums.

Symptoms of Smoke Inhalation in Dogs

The degree of smoke inhalation determines the severity of symptoms and likelihood of recovery. Some common symptoms to watch for include:

  • Extreme coughing or wheezing
  • Red, irritated eyes
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Increased, difficulty breathing
  • Inner mouth burns, swelling, or inflammation
  • Foaming at the math
  • Seizures
  • Burns to the skin and eyes
  • Singed or burnt hair
  • Vomiting
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Smoke inhalation in dogs is largely classified by degree of smoke inhalation and chemical makeup of the smoke itself. What chemical components the smoke contains depend primarily on the type of burning material. The most fatal chemical component in a fire is carbon monoxide. There are three specific classes of inhalation injury:

  • Inhalation injury focused in the upper airways
  • Inhalation injury focused in the lower airways and pulmonary parenchyma
  • System toxicity, caused by inhalation of toxic gases such as carbon monoxide and cyanide
  • It is possible to have multiple classes of injury, depending on the degree of inhalation and the composition of the fire.

    Your vet will conduct a thorough physical examination and request for blood tests as part of assessment for lactic acidosis and monitoring if carbon monoxide poisoning is severe and also chest radiographs, which will altogether be useful to assess the severity of your pet’s condition. Your pet’s oxygenation levels, ventilation ability and mentation should be closely monitored. Cardiac monitoring (eg. ECG) is also recommended to identify and treat any arrhythmias if present.

    Building fires or bush fires are the most common causes of fire and smoke inhalation. The toxicity of smoke depends on the composition of the substances burning, amount of oxygen, temperature, duration of exposure and the health of the individual animal. Smoke leads to carbon monoxide toxicity, cyanide toxicity, swelling (oedema) of the airways and respiratory arrest.

    Smoke Inhalation in Dogs | Wag!