During the pandemic, many British Columbians sought the companionship of a new furry friend. With work from home, it was easier than ever to spend time with pets and make sure their needs were met. But as we begin returning to our offices for in-person work, our pets may struggle to adjust.
What could at first glance look like separation anxiety may actually be an early warning sign for something more serious – animal carbon monoxide (CO) exposure.
That’s why this year during Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week (November 1st – 7th), Technical Safety BC wants British Columbians to understand the dangers of CO exposure, what the warning signs may look like in pets, and how to protect yourself and your furry friends from exposure.
CO is known as ‘the silent killer’ because it is an invisible, tasteless, and odourless gas that can cause serious harm or death. It’s also found in everyday settings, and several household appliances can produce CO, such as gas-fired furnaces, boilers, hot water tanks, stoves, and dryers.
Early carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms in humans include headaches, confusion, vomiting, weakness, dizziness, and chest pain.
But our pets often exhibit signs of CO exposure before humans do! Early warning signs of CO exposure that pet owners can watch out for include:
- Irritable behaviour: sudden or unusual behaviour such as aggression or anxiety
- Resisting or refusing to enter the house after being outside
- Uncoordinated movements
- Difficulty breathing
- Bright cherry red lips, ears, and gums
- Unusual intolerance to exercise they usually partake in.
British Columbians can prevent CO exposure in the home by scheduling an annual appliance inspection, installing a Canadian-certified CO alarm on every floor of their home, and never ignoring the sound of a CO alarm.
If you suspect you or your pet are being poisoned by CO, or if your CO alarm goes off, you should:
- Turn your appliances off
- Get everyone out of the building, including pets
- Call 911 or your local emergency number
- Seek medical attention
- Move next to an open window or an open door if you are unable to leave your home
- Don’t return to the area until you’re sure it’s safe – if you’re not sure, wait for the fire department or Fortis BC to tell you everything is OK