Smoke Inhalation

Smoke Inhalation

toxic gases

Alternate names

CO, carbon monoxide, cyanide, thermal injury, house fire

Toxicity to pets

Pets are typically poisoned by smoke due to house fires. As dogs and cats hide or cower during fires, they are often unable to escape, resulting in smoke inhalation. Chemicals released from burned materials, including particulate matter, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and cyanide can result in severe lung injury. Signs of smoke inhalation injury to pets include inflammation, swelling, or burns to the mouth, nose, or upper airway. Signs of coughing, increased respiratory rate, and difficulty breathing are commonly seen. Secondary neurologic signs (e.g., seizures, coma, etc.) may be due to brain hypoxia (lack of oxygen). Burns or injury to the eyes and skin may also be seen as a result of direct burn or chemical injury.

If you think your pet was exposed to smoke inhalation, start by protecting your pet and yourself. Do not risk endangering yourself to rescue a trapped pet; instead rely on your local firefighters and paramedics for assistance. If oxygen is available at the scene, it should ideally be provided to your pet to help treat carbon monoxide poisoning. Immediate treatment with a veterinarian is vital thereafter. Call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline® immediately for life-saving treatment advice.

Common signs to watch for:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Burns, swelling, or inflammation of the mouth, eyes, skin, upper airway
  • Open-mouthed breathing (cats)
  • Walking drunk
  • Weakness/lethargy
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Smoke smell to the fur
  • Vocalizing
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Squinting
  • Ocular burns
  • Skin burns

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The content of this page is not veterinary advice. A number of factors (amount of substance ingested, size of the animal, allergies, etc.) determine what is toxic to a particular pet. If you think your pet has eaten something potentially toxic, call Pet Poison Helpline or seek immediate veterinary treatment.