Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pets and Lung Disease

Let us always keep in mind that it is our responsibility to protect our precious animals' lung health along with our own. In that spirit, I offer the following article that came in one of my newsletters today. Very informative and in right timing. While it relates to the forthcoming eruption of the volcano in Alaska, it also applies to other air hazards as well. Please protect the lungs of the animals, too. Blessings, Kasey

Where pets should go in case Mount Redoubt decides to blow
By Joseph Robertia Peninsula Clarion

As many people take precautions in case Mount Redoubt does erupt and sends a thick storm of ash falling from the skies, so too should pet owners take steps to protect their furry friends.

"The main thing is to keep them out of it as much as possible," said Tabitha Perkovich, a veterinarian at Twin Cities Veterinary Clinic in Soldotna.
Like humans, the lungs of animals can be adversely affected if they breathe in ash. Obstructive airway diseases -- such as pneumonia, asthma or emphysema -- could develop as a result of a significant ash-fall event.
"You can't really get pets to wear masks, so you have to limit their exposure by keeping them indoors, only going in-and-out to do their business," Perkovich said.

All steps should be avoided to keep pets from ingesting ash while eating and drinking, as well.

"Bring them into the garage to eat and drink. Don't offer them food and water outside," she said.

Precautions should be taken to protect the eyes of animals too, according to Mary Huhndorf, also a veterinarian at Twin Cities Veterinary Clinic.
"Opthalmic ointments can be put in to protect the eyes from corneal abrasions," she said.

Pets will undoubtably pick up some ash on their coats and feet while outdoors, and Huhndorf said this should be removed immediately upon returning indoors.

"They can be vacuumed or brushed, and extra effort should be made to keep the face clean, but don't use anything wet to wipe them, it'll just make a cement," she said.

Most of these recommendations shouldn't be tough for people with indoor dogs and cats, or even a small number of outdoor pets. But, for sled dog kennels, or the owners of livestock, this may be a bit more challenging.

"I've given a lot of thought to this issue," said Sterling musher Mitch Seavey.
He said he has contemplated loading his dogs and heading out of town to avoid an ash-fall event, but until the volcano does blow and he knows which way the wind may blow, he is reluctant to take off. Instead, he said he will likely take steps to protect his dogs at home.
"I've got a trailer and two dog trucks and shops and garages, so my plan is to put them in there," he said.

Other sled dog owners are encouraged to do the same, and Perkovich and Huhndorf said those that have more dogs than they do places to house them out of the ash, may want to invest in pet travel kennels, so that dogs may be able to be indoors in these containers.

Makeshift shelters -- such as made with tarps, Tyvek or other materials -- can also be used outdoors to help protect animals too large or too wild to be brought indoors. For sled dogs, this shelter could be constructed around a drop chain, anchored on each end.

"Even if they could put up a Visqueen shelter, around and over the animals, it would help cut down on the percent of particles they may be exposed to," Perkovich said.

For pet owners that want to bring the animals indoors in kennels, but have nowhere to put the kennel, the Kenai Animal Control Shelter said it would be willing to temporarily take in a limited number of pets, but pet owners should only utilize them as a last resort.

"If someone had nowhere else to go, we could hold some animals, but space is limited. At a push, we could do 24 dogs and put some crates in the garage. The same with cats," said Patricia Stringer, Kenai's Chief Animal Control Officer.
Soldotna residents will not have the same option.

"I have not been given that direction from my management," said Marianne Clark, manager of Soldotna's Animal Control Shelter.

As such, she said, "Pet owners should have some kind of provisions to bring their animals indoors."

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management also has a list of emergency precautions pet owners can take, and -- while they are not volcano specific -- they may serve as good guidelines for what to have on hand for pets in the event the water, power and avenues of transportation become unavailable for days to weeks.

To view the OEM's Web site, visit http://www.borough.kenai.ak.us/emergency/Misc/petchecklist.pdf.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at joseph.robertia@peninsulaclarion.com