As I write this, the Thomas Fire continues to invade surrounding cities. Although it has left Ventura, we are still suffering from poor air quality. Whether the disaster is a fire, hurricane, tornado or earthquake, it not only impacts people, it also impacts our pets. It is important to recognize that our pets are affected by poor air or water quality and they are physiologically affected as well!
As the fire moved out of Ventura, I noticed that people were wearing masks to protect themselves from the thick smoke… while walking their dogs! The dogs were breathing the same air but did not have a mask on to protect their lungs. After Hurricane Harvey I saw video of people allowing their dogs to swim in water that was likely filled with sewer. I realize that when our pets are cooped up for days on end during a disaster, it can be tempting to get some energy out with exercise, but we still must take caution to protect their bodies the way we protect our own. Instead of using physical exercise as an outlet, consider providing more mental stimulation. Mental stimulation can be in the form of a stuffed Kong, a bone to chew on, or another edible toy. It can also come from a toy like a Buster Cube, Kibble Nibble Ball, or a Liter soda bottle (with a few holes cut out on the sides) filled with kibble or treats. Training new behaviors and tricks can also provide a healthy form of mental stimulation.
Our pets may also experience anxiety, stress or fear after a disaster. I know of many dogs who became frightened of loud sounds after the earthquake in Napa. If they experienced the flames when leaning out the front door, they may become afraid to leave using the front door. Fear and anxiety do not always make sense to us. If you notice that your pet is acting different after a disaster, it is important to seek help from a professional.
Getting a professional to help with fear, anxiety or other behavior changes is not as easy as you may think. When dealing with these problems, you must find a professional who understands pet psychology.
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