Since You Asked: Dogs can cope with smoke, but be careful

I like to take my dogs out for hikes on local trails but have become concerned since the smoke from the California fires that seems to sock-in the Rogue Valley every few days.

Tater and Spud don't seem to mind the smoke. They still enjoy going for a hike. But how much damage is it doing to their lungs? Both are relatively young and very healthy. Should I keep them in until all of this smoke is gone? They get cranky if they don't get their walks.

— B.J., Josephine County

We definitely don't want Tater and Spud to get unfriendly so we immediately passed this "hot potato" to a friendly expert in Dr. Shannan Sierra, veterinarian at Best Friends Animal Hospital in west Medford.

Grab the leashes, he says.

"Most dogs, if they are healthy, have built-in defenses against the smoke," he observed. "They have longer noses with more extensive mucus membranes. They have better defenses than most of us."

Unless the pooch is under the weather or elderly, an outdoor jaunt won't do any harm, he said.

"But if you have an older dog, particularly one prone to asthma, he should have a minimum of outside activity," the doc said of those days when smoke settles in the southwest Oregon valleys.

"I typically wouldn't recommend any restrictions unless there is some kind of advanced sensitivity," he said. "Dogs are amazing little creatures. They just have better defenses than most humans do."

His office has received a half-dozen calls concerning the issue, he said.

"We did have one dog with bronchial spasms," he said. "But he had some issues. He had a mild case of bronchitis. He was an older dog with some other health issues."

But, like all bipeds, Dr. Sierra will be glad to see the last of the smoke-filled days.

Unfortunately, fire officials in Northern California report slow going in trying to contain the more than 100,000 acres burning in the rugged mountains between Redding and Crescent City. They don't expect some of the fires to be snuffed out until the fall rains.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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