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Protect pets from bad air

Air pollution can cause breathing trouble in pets too—keep an eye out for subtle clues like lethargy and snoring

Viral infections like feline herpesvirus and calicivirus affect cats, while canine influenza poses a threat to dogs
Viral infections like feline herpesvirus and calicivirus affect cats, while canine influenza poses a threat to dogs

Given the poor to severe air quality in parts of the country, especially in north India, pet owners should heighten their awareness of respiratory tract illnesses in pets and take preventive measures.

Pets are susceptible to a diverse array of respiratory tract infections and ailments. In India, kennel cough is common and highly contagious, particularly in environments where dogs are close to one another, such as boarding facilities or dog parks.

Viral infections like feline herpesvirus and calicivirus affect cats, while canine influenza poses a threat to dogs. While cats can suffer from conditions like asthma, among dogs, flat-faced breeds like bulldogs and pugs are predisposed to respiratory difficulties, marked by laboured breathing, snoring, and intolerance to exercise owing to their distinctive anatomy.

Allergies also play a role; persistent sneezing could be a sign, often triggered by dust and dust mites. Additionally, damp environments can introduce fungus and yeast, exposing pets to spores that may lead to respiratory distress.

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Spotting signs of respiratory distress involves paying attention to subtle cues. Unmistakable symptoms include coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and nasal discharge, possibly accompanied by a fever. I have noticed that many pet parents may not be familiar with the distinct sounds of a dog’s cough, sometimes mistaking it for choking or attempts to vomit. Watching a few videos can be a wise move; it helps you recognise these sounds when your dog or cat coughs.

Dogs may also exhibit “reverse sneezing” when their nasal passage is irritated—a normal phenomenon that can induce panic if you are unfamiliar with it.

Keep an eye out for any change in breathing patterns, especially if it becomes laboured or if you notice open-mouth breathing or a bluish tint to the tongue—these are red flags demanding immediate attention. Furthermore, any sudden decrease in playfulness or reluctance to exercise may signal underlying respiratory distress.

Heart conditions can also contribute to respiratory distress. Certain conditions, like congestive heart failure, can result in the accumulation of fluid in the chest cavity, impeding normal breathing. Some heart conditions may manifest as a soft cough. If you notice your pet struggling to keep pace during exercise or displaying signs of fatigue too quickly, it could be indicative of respiratory difficulties linked to a heart condition. It’s crucial to be attuned to these subtle signs and seek prompt veterinary attention.

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Vaccinations can help prevent a lot of viral respiratory tract infections. Vaccines are also available for kennel cough and are advised in case you are planning on keeping your pet in a boarding facility. When your pet meets new friends, be cautious around those with an unknown vaccination status. Also, keeping your pet at a healthy weight is crucial. Obesity can affect their breathing, especially for breeds with flat faces.

To shield your pet from respiratory issues caused by air pollution, consider investing in air purifiers. For pets with pre-existing conditions like asthma or allergies, it’s crucial to limit exposure to dust, strong odours, and environmental irritants. Steer clear of tobacco smoke, a known culprit that worsens respiratory problems and can heighten the risk of infections, and even cancer.

Maintain a clean and well-ventilated living space for the pet by regularly cleaning bedding, litter boxes, and other areas to reduce allergen and irritant levels. Practise good hygiene, especially when the pet is interacting with other animals. Regular grooming prevents the build-up of allergens in their fur. Plan outdoor activities and walks during times when pollution levels are lower.

Finally, remember that regular veterinary visits are crucial for the early detection of potential respiratory and cardiac issues, allowing for timely intervention.

Nameeta Nadkarni is a practising veterinary soft tissue surgeon and pet blogger from Mumbai.

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