Thanks to Environment Canada, most of us know to keep our dogs indoors on “bad air” days. But is your indoor air also affecting his health?
Dogs have lungs that are even more sensitive than ours. Let’s take a look at a few ways to keep your indoor air as healthy as possible for all your family members, including the four-legged ones.
1. Air out your space
Opening the windows may be a solution, but only if the air quality outside is okay. The government of Canada posts current outdoor air quality on a daily basis, so check it out before using “fresh” air to purify your indoor environment: weather.gc.ca/airquality/pages/index_e.html
2. Buy an air purifier
If the outdoor air is unfit for purifying your home, an air purifier may be the next best step. These portable machines remove pollutants from the surrounding air and can be moved around to achieve filtration throughout different rooms. There are several types available, each designed to remove different toxins and impurities, so choose one best suited to your needs.
3. Limit chemical use
Certain household products such as cleaners and air fresheners may contain harsh chemicals that negatively impact pets and humans when inhaled in large quantities or over a long period of time. Limit your dog’s exposure to these chemicals by using more products that contain natural ingredients. Vinegar and baking soda are great natural cleaners you can find right in your cupboard. And rather than using paraffin (petroleum-based) candles, try soy or beeswax versions.
4. Keep things clean
Maintaining a regular cleaning schedule can make a big difference in the quality of your air. Particulate matter such as dust, smoke, mould, pollen and animal dander are a constant threat, especially in older homes with more inefficient ventilation systems and inadequate structural elements (e.g. old chimneys and dated plumbing). Frequent dusting and vacuuming will limit this risk (see sidebar). When dusting, try using a damp cloth rather than a duster that simply brushes the dust into the air.
5. Stay fungi-free
When it comes to fungi such as mould and mildew, prevention is key. Take every effort to keep your house free of excessive moisture by installing an exhaust fan in your kitchen, repairing plumbing leaks, and purchasing a dehumidifier. If you do notice signs of mould, immediate elimination is the next step. If ignored, mould can spread quickly, so clean your counters, ceilings, tiles and other contaminated surfaces at the first sign of this hazard, using a damp cloth and baking soda. If you suspect the problem is out of your hands, call a qualified professional. Visit canada.ca/en/health-canada and search “mould” for more information.
6. Quit smoking
It goes without saying that tobacco smoke has a profoundly negative impact on dogs. In the 1990s, John Reif of Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital conducted a study revealing that a dog exposed to second-hand smoke is 1.6 times more likely to develop cancer than one living in a smoke-free household. To prevent your dog from the effects of this toxin, the best thing you can do is make your home smoke-free. Asks guests to smoke outdoors, and ensure all cigarette butts and ashes are cleaned up.
7. Seek help from plants!
With their ability to absorb harmful toxins – especially in enclosed spaces – plants are a cost-effective alternative to electronic purifiers. They might not be as powerful, but they’re certainly more therapeutic. Just ensure that the plants you choose are animal-friendly, and won’t harm your dog if he ingests them. Popular options are spider plants, Boston ferns, money trees and moth orchids.
Don’t have a green thumb? Plant-based essential oils are another great way to keep your air clean. Eucalyptus, grapefruit, lemon, peppermint and tea tree are excellent options. Alternatively, doTerra Cleansing Blend is specially formulated to eliminate odours, protect against environmental toxins, and cleanse the air. Invest in a diffuser, or combine the oil with water in a spray bottle to spritz around the house.
Choosing a vacuum
Different vacuum cleaners have different purposes, so make sure you invest in the right one! Generic vacuums will do the trick, but consider taking your cleaning efforts a step further by finding a model with a purifier or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter built right in. Designed with airtight technology, these handy machines trap microscopic allergens such as mould spores and pollen in their filtration systems, so they don’t escape back into the air. Some companies offer vacuums specifically designed to remove pet hair and dander from carpeting and other tricky areas.
Is your breed more at risk?
Flat-faced breeds such as Boston Terriers, Pugs, Bulldogs and Shih Tzus have a higher risk of developing respiratory issues due to high levels of air contaminants. Be on the alert for signs such as laboured breathing, runny nose, loss of appetite and lethargy, and contact your veterinarian if cleaning the air fails to resolve the symptoms.
Emily Watson is a staff writer for Animal Wellness Magazine and Canadian Dogs Annual. She is a certified yoga and medical Qi Gong instructor and has been writing — creatively and otherwise — for ten years. Off the mat and away from the keyboard, Emily can be found hiking, camping and travelling with her wife and fur babies.