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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Smoke Inhalation View In Dogs

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

Fire produces gas, which suspends carbon particles in the air, creating smoke. Five common components of smoke make pets (and people) sick when they are inhaled. The ash or soot irritates or clogs the lungs, but it is the invisible gases that often kill.


Pets who breathe smoke gasp or cough, and they often faint from lack of oxygen. Their gums can change color, turning pale or blue (cyanotic) from lack of oxygen.


The inhalation of smoke will cause this condition. Pets left inside burning buildings, or in buildings with improperly ventilated fire places can also experience smoke inhalation.


Diagnosis can be made by evaluating symptoms.


Smoke inhalation is a medical emergency that needs veterinary attention immediately, even if your pet seems to recover. Smoke can be insidious and kill hours to days after it is inhaled. Pets who stop breathing need artificial respiration (and possibly CPR) to survive.

  1. Get your pet out of the smoke - Most cases of smoke inhalation involve large, severe fires where the pet is unable to escape from the smoke. Do not go into a dangerous situation to rescue your pet unless you have professional training. Wait until a firefighter or someone with the proper equipment for entering a burning building brings her out. Once she is outside, if possible, move her away from the smoke and into fresh air. With mild cases of smoke inhalation, this may be all that is needed to revive your pet. However, even if your pet acts as if she feels well, restrict her activity until your veterinarian gives her an examination.
  2. Transport her carefully - On the ride to the veterinary clinic, don't hold your pet in your arms - holding her may increase her stress levels. This could tip her over the edge into a heart attack or respiratory failure. Put a small pet in a dark box or carrier and a large dog on the back seat of the car. Turn on the air conditioner because cool air is easier to breathe.
If your pet stops breathing - Give artificial respiration. Wrap your hands around her mouth and muzzle to hold it closed and put your mouth over her nose. Give 2 quick breaths, watching to see her chest expand.

Once her chest begins to rise, pull your mouth away so that the air will flow out. Give 15 - 20 breaths a minute until your pet starts breathing on her own or you reach medical help. Be very careful and alert to your pet's reactions, because if she regains consciousness, she may bite out of fear.

If there is no breathing or heartbeat - Perform CPR. Fell or listen for the heartbeat with your ear or your palm against your pet's left side, right behind the elbow. If you can't find a heartbeat, you must begin CPR.

For cats and small dogs, cup a hand over the point of the chest just behind the elbows and squeeze firmly between your fingers and thumb, pressing in about 1/2 inch, about 80 - 100 times a minute. Continue to give 15 - 20 breaths per minute, and alternate 5 compressions for every breath.

Place a medium to large sized dog on her side and place both hands, one on top of the other, on the highest part of her chest. You should compress the chest 25 - 50% and give 80 - 100 compressions per minute.

Continue CPR and artificial respiration while someone drives you to the animal hospital. Stop CPR every minute to check for a pulse or breathing. If the heart starts again, stop the compressions, but continue artificial respiration until your pet breathes on her own or you reach medical help.


Quickly removing pets from a house or other fire is the best prevention for smoke inhalation.


Breathing smoke irritates your pet's lungs and throat. She may continue to cough or sound hoarse for several days. A humidifier can help speed recovery. Moist, cool air soothes the respiratory passages and reduces coughing, which can make the irritation worse. Place the humidifier in the room where your pet sleeps and run it for 2 - 3 days after the event.

Make plenty of cool water available to your pet. Add a few ice cubes to her water dish because cold water will help soothe the irritation and rehydrate tissues that were damaged by the smoke.

Show Sources & Contributors +


The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

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