Pets and Air Quality: Part Two

canaries used to be used for testing dangerous areas now your pets may be acting in the same
You want us to go where?!

Part two of our articles on Pets and Air Quality will focus on the effects of poor air quality, either indoor or outdoor, on your pets. Obviously, your pets are living creatures too and so they’re affected by the same maladies as you. The big difference is that because they are much smaller they can much more sensitive to negative environments. For this reason, miners have used canaries or mice as a low tech and deadly methane detection system for decades. The miners would know there was trouble ahead when the canary or mouse…well…died. Their much smaller and more sensitive respiratory systems had a much lower threshold for distress and death than their larger human companions.

Remember this as we go over air quality and pets. While your cat or dog is much larger than a canary or mouse, the idea still applies.

We would also like to give a shout out to Dr. B at Parkside Animal Health Center in Aurora. She is my regular veterinarian but was willing to chime in and provide some guidance for this article while I took my little buddy Slapshot in for his exam. We spend a lot of time in Dr. B’s clinic since Slapshot suffers from frequent allergies and she was patient enough to examine my dog all while answering my questions!

 The Outdoor Danger To Your Pet’s Respiratory Health

The abundant sources of outdoor pollution that affect you also affect your pet. We’re talking pollution from factories, vehicles and various other industries. However, your pet can be at a greater risk due to their willingness to ingest or investigate pollutants that you know are bad for you. You’ve seen what your dog is willing to roll in, now realize what they are willing to smell. Paints, motor oil and other chemicals used in day to day life can be interesting to your pet. Also consider, that your pet is closer to the ground and thus more directly exposed to harmful vapors emitted from vehicles. And with the traffic in Aurora and Denver on the rise, most of these problems are only getting worse!

This type of respiratory exposure can mean you have to spend time extra time with your veterinarian. While diseases like kennel cough are typically viral (or at least start that way) pollution can make your pets more vulnerable to the virus or allow for related bacterial complications. While is still rare, especially if you keep your dog vaccinated and away from sick animals, it is still a risk.

More commonly, we see something called reverse sneezing. You may have seen your dog do something like this before. Dr. B from Parkside in Aurora (www.AnimalHospitalAurora.net) describes it like this, “A reverse sneeze is actually a normal occurrence. The animal will stretch the head and neck out and sort of snort air in a desperate way. Which many pet owners find concerning. Eventually, the dog will calm down and the dog is still able to get air.” There are a lot of things that can cause a reverse sneeze but one major factor is air pollution. Dogs will preform this action in an effort to clear their airway of allergens, debris or other polluntants.

You can check out this video to see exactly what Dr. B is talking about:

 

What You Can Do About It

Just like with your own health, focus on spending more time in green space like parks or similar areas. Find a route for your daily walks that don’t involve walking through busy or high traffic areas. While this often means you may have more company (i.e. other dogs and owners looking for the same) it is still worth the extra hassle. The solution is simple- you can’t control the pollution that is around but you can often control what exposure you have to it. Always remember that your pet is much closer to the ground so try to avoid areas with trash or other debris. Take extra precautions to avoid lower ground where chemicals and other pollutants can often accumulate.

The Indoor Danger To Your Pet’s Respiratory Health

When it comes to pet health, most people only consider the outdoors factors. But as local veterinarian Dr. B points out, “Just as you can be allergic to your cat’s pet dander, your dog can also be allergic! In fact, rather than starting with the full allergy workup when we have a dog come in with allergies, we like to start but asking about other pets and other indoor allergy factors.” Additionally, common household chemical can greatly affect a pet’s health considering that the indoor space is so much smaller and enclosed. When it comes to cats, it is particularly challenging as Dr. B says they rarely show signs of distress- “While a cat will show respiratory distress if it’s unavoidable, they will otherwise remain silent even if they are severely ill. That’s why its so important for owners to bring their cats to our animal clinic for regular checks ups- but that’s a different article!”

What You Can Do About It

As we have discussed previously, using an indoor air filter is a great first step and a largely passive one at that. However, you will want to also make a big effort to keep your home clean. When it comes to dander, the degree of exposure is critical. Leaving large areas of your home undusted or untouched can allow harmful debris to accumulate. While you may be tempted to keep the windows closed in an effort to prevent pollution, you may be making things worse! Don’t forget to open the windows now and again and get some airflow through your home. Even if the air is not as clean you would want, the air filter is there to pick up the slack! Fresh air is still best!

A big thank you to Dr. B and Parkside in Aurora for their patience with my questions and their continued kindness to my friend Slapshot!

 

 

Pets and Air Quality: Part One

And just where has that paw been?
And just where has that paw been?

This is part one of a two article on pets and air quality. Part one will focus on how pets in your home can reduce your indoor air quality along with ways that you can improve the overall air quality in your home. Part two will focus on the effects that poor air quality can have on your pets. We see the two as closely connected, especially for homes with several pets! In other words, the poor air quality produced by your dog’s dander can negatively affect your cat’s asthma. So let’s get to it!

Colorado and Pets

Colorado cities like Denver, Aurora, Boulder and Colorado Springs are all well known for being pet-friendly. Which means that Colorado is probably above the national average of households with dogs and cats. According to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, roughly 37 % of American households have dogs and 30% have cats. That means that clean air and pets is a big deal across the country but more so in the great state of Colorado.

Dogs, Cats and Allergies

We don’t mean allergies that your pets have, we mean allergies that you have! While most people think that the length of hair coat will help manage the effect their pets have on their allergies, the reality is that the allergy causing factors are not related to hair coat. Instead, the cause is something called pet dander. This word gets thrown around quite a bit, but what does it really mean? Pet dander is composed of very small (so small it requires a microscope to see in some cases) pieces of skin that is shed by anything with fur. The issue arises because these specks cause a chemical response in the body.

Think of all the times you have seen your cat or dog grooming itself. Especially for a cat, it can be pretty frequent. Now, when dander is shed from your pet’s skin, it carries with it all that saliva and anything else they may have picked up. When your indoor air isn’t clean, you end up inhaling all this dander and debris! In this fashion, even dried feces can become airborne. Yuck!

Okay, What Can I Do About It? 

First off, if your pet has any type allergy or skin condition make sure you get it addressed with your local veterinarian. Despite our Denver roots, we recommend an excellent Aurora veterinarian who also helped us author Part 2 of our Pets and Air Quality articles. If your pet has extra flaky or dry skin they should be seen. Even if you can chalk it up to the dry Colorado climate, the dry skin will produce more dander and more fecal debris floating. And we don’t want that!

Second, pick up an air purifier. If the source of the dander (your pet!) doesn’t need any attention then turn to taking control of the environment! You can pick up a quality air purifying system for around $200. Keep in mind, that you will need to keep up to date on filters and without changing the filters your unit is essentially worthless. Try searching Amazon and find the best-rated system in your price range.

Do Pets and Air Filters Really Change My Air Quality?

Yes! They do. Most people image that one dog or one air filter isn’t going to do much. But don’t forget the obvious here, you are living in an enclosed space which means every factor is magnified! When it comes to air quality you can’t forget that the fight for clean air indoors is just as important as the fight for clean air outdoors.

 

 

What Causes Poor Air Quality?

indoor-air-quality-resized-600Over the past decade, Denver air quality has been on the decline. The air you breathe today is much more toxic than the air that natives breathed in centuries ago (but still better than the L.A. air of a few decades ago- check out the video on the sidebar for more on that). So what is to blame for the quality of Denver’s air going down?  Some of the answers may surprise you. These are a few of the things that cause poor air quality.

Vehicles

Vehicles are one of the main perpetrators causing poor air quality around Denver and throughout the world.  The exhaust fumes that cars expel make up a large percentage of the smog cloud seen over Denver and Aurora. The smog typically consists of a large amount of toxins which then get trapped in the ozone layer, creating the gray hazy cloud. One of the best ways to help improve the air quality of Denver is to upgrade your means of transportation to something more environmentally healthy, such as riding your bike or using public transportation. The light rail service from Denver, Aurora, Littleton and other areas to the Denver International Airport is a huge step forward in regards to cleaner better air.


Gas vapors

Low indoor air quality is also causing the poor air quality across Colorado. Gas vapors usually come from inside of homes. If mechanical ventilation is not installed in your homes, then you might end up with high air condensation. If this is the case, you can easily notice the vapors forming on your windows when they are closed. It is a good idea to have a clean filtration system for your heating and cooling system in the home, to prevent toxic gas vapors from infiltrating the air.


Power plants and factories

The type of fumes expelled from power plants and factories greatly contributes to poor air quality. Unfortunately, you cannot prevent business industries from operating that utilize power plants and factories. Making them follow health regulations is one way to reduce toxic smokes from the factories. Industry regulations are also implemented by public officials to stop them from using products that are harmful to people. Reusable energy is also being introduced to help in making the air quality from these industries become better. You can make an impact by supporting websites like ours and reaching out to your community or congress person.


Fumes from paints and solvents

Paints and solvents are usually used to cover homes and buildings. The paint can improve the appearance of buildings and homes, giving your stale home a new look. However, there are certain types of paints and solvents that release toxic fumes into the air which can be detrimental to a person’s health, if they are exposed to the fumes for a long period of time. The best thing to do is use paints that are less harmful to the environment. One thing that paint companies are moving towards, is changing the components of paints and solvents into environmentally-friendly ingredients. The paints and solvents with better ingredients can help the environment by preventing more toxins from entering the air.


Lawnmowers

Landscaping equipment and lawnmowers can also cause poor air quality. There is a high amount of oxidation that happens when you mow your lawn during the daytime, due to heat. The higher the temperature outside, the faster cut grass will oxidize. You may think that just a few square meters of cut grass in your iaq-825x340yard may not be a big problem. However, imagine how many homes mow their lawn each week? What about each year? The collective effects of oxidization that occurs after mowing the lawn can add up quickly. Experts advise people to mow their lawn during the cooler parts of the day, especially in the evening, due to it lowering the overall environmental impact it can cause.

Poor air quality is caused by a large array of factors, some obvious sources and some that you barely notice. Vehicles, power plants, and factories are some causes you probably already knew about. Lawn mowers, gas vapors, fumes from paints and solvents are less obvious causes of poor air quality but are equally important to be aware of.

 

How Abandoned Cars Effect The Environment

This is not how you should recycle!
This is not how you should recycle!

If you are a business owner or if you own an apartment complex or series of homes in the Denver area, it may feel like you don’t have control of possible pollutants to the environment.  However, there are steps you can take in order to reduce pollution and overall improve the air quality of your businesses or home.  Once you begin to know the source of pollutants, it becomes easier to know what steps you can take to make a change and improve the air quality of the environment.

One of the largest factors for air pollution is, of course, the emissions that come from driving millions of vehicles on the road each day. However, exhaust fumes aren’t the only form of pollution that can be caused by vehicles. Vehicles left sitting around that are not maintained can be harmful to the environment.

One of the most common reasons why as a property or business owner you may have problems with vehicles, is due to parking issues. We have all seen the broken-down cars that tend to get left sitting in an area for weeks, months, or even years on end. You may not realize that this in of itself may be harmful to the environment. These vehicles have fluids in their engines that will start to corrode over time, releasing toxic discharge into the environment. Additionally, the extended heat and weather that is applied to vehicles sitting outdoors without maintenance, can cause the rubber from the tires to degrade or can erode different parts of the vehicle. This can be harmful especially when it rains, because the rain will cause the toxins to travel across the city and seep into the aquifer. These are just a few of the reasons why having vehicles sitting around without care can be harmful to the environment.

Make an effort to communicate with any potential owner of an unattended vehicle and inform them of the potential environmental damage they may be causing.

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

air-quality-woman-200x300The population of Denver, Aurora and the surrounding areas has been increasing steadily over the last several years. Because of this, air quality in Denver/Aurora area is declining and becoming more polluted. However, don’t let this discourage you! There are plenty of things that you can do as an individual to help minimize air pollutants. They’re simple, effective and almost anyone can do them. Remember, each person makes a difference!


Use Efficient Energy Systems

If you see the changing skies of Denver, you will know it’s because of air pollution. Factories and vehicles emit fumes and smoke that has steadily lowered air quality. You can improve the air quality if you use efficient energy system. Too much use of energy can increase the harmful effects on the environment. You can start with your heating and cooling system. A good air filtration system will help clean the air indoors, lessening the air outside from getting polluted. Not only that- but it will also save you money!


Plant Trees

What could be better than planting trees! Planting trees can help the environment in an array of ways, but they are key to increasing oxygen supply and eliminating pollutants in the air. If you plant trees, you will increase the production of oxygen in the area, all while decreasing toxic air pollutants.  You will epa-logo-900also be setting up a long-term system that will help the overall air quality. Planting trees is not just about improving the air quality for you, but also for the animals at the nearby Rocky Mountains and for future generations.


Have Indoor Plants

Although many people think of the outdoors when they think of air quality, they tend to forget the importance of the quality of air inside their home as well. If it seems like too daunting of a task to improve air quality outside of your home, you can take a few easy steps towards improving the air within your own home. One of the best ways to do this is to have indoor plants. They are an excellent way to add fresh oxygen inside your home. There are many types of indoor plants that you can choose from. You can find ones that are even low maintenance and seldom need watering and fertilizers. You can use indoor plants to decorate your home as they double as a mini air filtration system by themselves.

For more about improving your indoor air quality, click here.


Don’t Add to Pollution

Don’t think that you don’t have anything big to contribute in improving Denver’s air quality.  You can help by not worsening the current problems. Don’t add to pollution as you do your daily routines. Opt to carpool, take public transportation, bike, or walk to help reduce your carbon footprint. Turn your engine off if you are going to stay idle in a place for a few minutes.  Remember that each little change, no matter how small, makes a difference in helping to improve and maintain a healthy environment.


Reuse and Recycle

Reusing and recycling is essential for not only improving the air quality of the Denver metro air quality, but for creating a more sustainable future for our children and our planet. You can improve air quality by lessening the need to produce plastics that are harmful to the environment. Make it a habit of reusing things or recycling them. You can help by ensuring as many products that you buy are environmentally friendly or made out of recycled materials, as well. Recycling your trash is also a wonderful thing that you can do to avoid filling up landfills. Additionally, you can consider a compost pile if space allows.

 

Summary

imagesThere are many ways you can help to improve the air quality of Denver and overall reduce your carbon footprint. As we just covered, you can use efficient energy system to help the air quality for Denver. Additionally, you can plant trees for you and future generations. Bring indoor plants to beautify and improve your indoor air quality. Don’t add to pollution by being responsible enough to change some habits that can harm the environment. Reuse and recycle the things you are using. Segregate the trash you’re throwing out. Doing those small steps can improve the air quality for everyone. Take action and make the world a better place for everyone!

How Poor Air Quality is Effecting Your Health

commercial-indoor-air-quality-jacksonville-waychoffs-air-conditioning-300x250Recent statistics show some concerning news: Denver air quality is on the decline. It’s no surprise then that sickness caused by air pollution has increased. Many people might not know how sickness and air quality is related but here is a quick overview:


Asthma attacks

Asthma is the number one illness caused by air pollution. People who have asthma get easily irritated from things such as dust, smoke, and pollen. If you have asthma staying in a clean environment with a lot of fresh air is ideal. However, if you are living in a city with air pollution, like Denver, you might find your asthma triggered more often than if you lived in a less polluted area. Frequent exposure to poor air quality can result in nonstop asthma attacks, and people in these situations tend to need assistance from medication to help ward off the overabundant asthma attacks. Unfortunately, any parents who have asthma will most likely have children that are more prone to developing asthma as well. Because of this it is important to take air quality, and the area you chose to raise your family, into consideration.


Toxicity in Houses

You might be wondering how could poor air quality destroy a home? If the quality of air inside your home or work seems to be particularly poor, it may be due to insufficient ventilation. When there is a lack of proper ventilation inside a building, the trapped air tends to become warm and stagnant, causing condensation.  One way to know if there is a lack of proper airflow in your home is if you notice water vapor forming on your windows when they are closed.  The moisture that settles into the crack of your home from the air can cause mold and mildew to form. Besides the fact that many of these molds can be toxic and further degrade the quality of air in your home, molds can weaken wood and other materials where they form. Ultimately, this will lead to your home rotting from the inside out, which without intervention, can become extremely costly and dangerous to live in. Because Denver receives a decent amount of snowfall, the winter months are when you want to keep a particularly close eye on your home. However, the dry mountain air often prevents this from becoming a major problem.


Poisons 

Pollution is perhaps the greatest poison that your body is exposed to on a daily basis. If you are living in a large city such as Denver, you are almost guaranteed to inhale poisonous gasses emitted from factories and vehicles. Equally concerning, however, is the possibility of being poisoned by poor air quality within your home. Carbon monoxide poisoning in homes is quite common. When there is not enough ventilation to circulate fresh air into a home, there can be a build up of poisonous gasses like carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas, making it difficult to detect. Some poisonous gasses are mostly harmless if only inhaled once, but constant exposure to them can be lethal.


Depression

Vitamin D, which soaks into your skin from direct sunlight, is essential for combating depression. As pollution in large cities increases, it begins to block out a significant percentage of the sun’s rays, preventing your body from having the access to vitamin D that it relies on.  Indoor air quality can also contribute to a person’s depression. You might have noticed how you feel refreshed, happy and inspired when you breathe in fresh air from the mountains or the beach. If there is poor ventilation inside your home, it can also have a negative effect on your mood. Being enclosed indoors with poor indoor air quality is known to make depression worse. Consider an air purifier, or if you live in the less polluted mountains just open your window

 

air-pollution


Cold and flu

Poor air quality tends to be full of toxins and poisonous gasses. Unfortunately, our bodies are unable to filter what we inhale each day, and as breathing is an essential function, we end up having little choice when it comes to breathing in toxins. If the air you inhaled has microbes or toxins, the chances of you getting sick are fairly high. There are many viruses carried through the air that can latch onto anyone. The most common viruses found in areas with poor air quality tend to be cold and flu viruses. Your body defenses will try to fight these microbes once they enter your system, causing symptoms to occur such as coughing to clear your air passageway. However, fighting off these viruses is made more complicated by having to protect your body from the lower quaility air.