Signs And Symptoms Of Smoke Inhalation And Injuries
Smoke Inhalation Signs
- Raspy breathing sounds, wheezing, “crackling”
- Altered respiration: increased rate/effort, labored/shallow
- Bright red mucous membranes (inside of lip and gums)
- Dry, unproductive cough
- Breathing effort suggesting airway obstruction/swelling
- Postural adaptations of respiratory distress (positioning the body to make breathing easier)
- Animals fur is singed
Common signs of illness in dogs and cats that may warrant Emergency veterinary care
• Eyes are watery, appear swollen or show discharge
• Ears appear red or inflamed, show discharge or have a foul odor
• Nose shows discharge (mucous, blood or pus) or is crusty, congested or blocked
• Gums are swollen or inflamed, teeth are loose or brown, or mouth has a foul odor
• Animal is sneezing, coughing or wheezing (respiratory issues)
• Animal has fleas or ticks; skin shows swelling or lesions
• Animal limps; or is thin or obese
• Animal has wounds or abscesses or body temperature is abnormal
Early outward signs that can be associated with smoke inhalation in pets include:
- Your pet is having difficulty breathing, is coughing, or is breathing rapidly.
- Your pet’s gums and other mucous membranes turn a bright, cherry red color.
- Singed fur
- Visible burns
- Eye abnormalities like redness, squinting, or an elevated third eyelid
Smoke inhalation-related illnesses and injuries are treatable if they are mild to moderate. As with other fire-related injuries, time is of the essence. Here are five dangers of smoke inhalation to be aware of in pets:
Thermal Injury: Air travels through your pet’s nose and mouth, into the windpipe, through the small airways, as it makes its way into the lungs. With smoke inhalation, a pet’s airways can become irritated and injured by ash, chemicals, and heat. Smoke and high heat can damage the airways. Damaged airway linings increase the risk of pneumonia.
Smoke inhalation can cause thermal injuries to a pet’s airways without apparent external signs, It takes 48 to 72 hours for ulcers and erosions to occur, so pets should be closely monitored for several days.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: The concentration of carbon monoxide in smoky air can be high, resulting in carbon monoxide poisoning in pets.
Carbon monoxide binds more strongly to hemoglobin than oxygen does, preventing the hemoglobin from properly doing its job of carrying oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues. “When [carbon monoxide poisoning] is severe or lasts for hours, brain damage or death can occur due to lack of oxygen,”
The most common signs of carbon monoxide poisoning in pets are an increased respiratory rate and abnormal sounds heard via stethoscope in the lungs during breathing, Some pets will also develop cherry red mucous membranes and neurologic abnormalities.
Hydrogen Cyanide Poisoning: In house fires, common household materials such as plastics, laminates, paint, varnishes, and other building materials release toxic gases that may result in hydrogen cyanide poisoning.
Signs of hydrogen cyanide poisoning are similar to those present during oxygen deprivation and may include rapid breathing, difficulty breathing, lethargy, drowsiness, or even unusual excited behavior, Although hydrogen cyanide poisoning in pets does not happen often as a result of smoke inhalation, it shouldn’t be discounted as a potential danger.
We are just now learning that cyanide was a bigger problem than we originally thought and should be considered whenever a pet shows severe signs associated with smoke inhalation. Medications are available that can help pets eliminate hydrogen cyanide from the body.
Pneumonia: Pneumonia is a lung infection your pet may get as a result of delayed complications from smoke inhalation. When the airways are damaged, they can’t protect the lungs from inhaling bacteria. How well your pet recovers depends on the extent of the lung infection.” Treatment includes antibiotics and, if needed, supportive therapies like oxygen supplementation and intravenous fluids.
Neurological Damage: Left untreated, smoke inhalation could show up as a neurological disorder later on. Your pet may have difficulty walking, exhibit changes in behavior, and have seizures.
Effects can be temporary or lasting, depending on the extent of damage and the time your pet has been left untreated. Oxygen deprivation or direct chemical effects on the brain are what can cause neurological damage.
Treating Smoke Inhalation in Pets: The best action to take if you believe your pet has inhaled smoke is to get your dog or cat to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Smoke inhalation is typically treated with oxygen therapy, and the results can be good if the animal is brought in quickly. “The earlier the oxygen therapy, the better the prognosis,”
Complications resulting from smoke inhalation may not be immediately apparent, so pet owners should monitor pets closely. Your pet may look OK at first, but some of the dangers occurring in their airways are progressive. Issues can show up quickly, but may also manifest hours or days after exposure.
Although smoke inhalation has the potential to be life threatening or cause serious damage, with timely veterinary treatment, many pets come through in good health.