Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is the leading cause of unintentional poisoning deaths in the U.S., and if any animals live in your home, their health could also be at risk if they are exposed to this toxic gas. CO is so harmful because it binds to hemoglobin – a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the body’s major organs and tissues. When the structure of hemoglobin is compromised by CO, it stops these organs and tissues from receiving crucial oxygen, and the heart and brain are often the most affected organs, owing to the amount of oxygen they need.

What Effects Can Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Have On Your Dog?

Key signs that your dog may have been exposed to carbon monoxide include weakness, respiratory difficulty, nausea, vomiting, tiredness, incoordination, and red gums, lips and ears. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it is vital to take them to the veterinarian immediately so a blood analysis can be carried out. If your veterinarian finds that your dog has increased creatine kinase levels and acidosis in the blood, the aim will be to immediately restore oxygen to your dog’s bloodstream. This can be achieved via intravenous fluids, oxygen therapy, and, if required, the use of a ventilator.

How To Avoid Carbon Monoxide Exposure In Your Home

Most carbon monoxide leaks at home are caused by gas fireplaces, kerosene lanterns and space heaters, propane heaters, and furnaces. To prevent CO exposure, reduce your use of this type of lantern, and ensure fixtures such as gas fireplaces are maintained and professionally inspected as required by the manufacturer. If you have a furnace, keep the furnace itself and the flame sensor clean. Avoid carbon build ups on furnace sensors by cleaning the sensor with a microfiber rag. Furnace flame sensors are actually very easy to clean and maintain. After shutting down the power and removing the flame sensor with a hex driver, gently rub the metal rod with sandpaper, and when you see the bare metal, wipe off any remaining carbon with your rag.

Preventing CO Leaks

In addition to carbon build ups on your sensors, you should also be vigilant about carbon monoxide leaks, which can occur even if you regularly maintain your heater. Firstly, find out how old your water heater is. Most are meant to last about 10 to 12 years, so if yours is reaching the end of its lifespan, replacement may be the best option. You should also ensure that key maintenance tips are followed. These include having a professional inspection from a plumber once a year, ventilation for your hot water heater, ensuring your detector is working, and flushing the tank of all water and eliminating visible sediment and dirt.

Watching Out for Other Sources Of CO Poisoning

Your home certainly isn’t the only potential setting for CO exposure: your car is a risk too, and this is particularly important if you travel with your dog. To play on the safe side, install a portable carbon monoxide detector in your car, so you can be alerted as soon as potential leaks occur. Regularly inspect your exhaust system and emission systems, ensuring that your engine is well maintained as well. You should also take your car for repair immediately if it develops a hole in the floor or trunk – since this can lead to exhaust fumes entering the car. The trunk or liftgate should also remain closed at all times to promote good air quality within your vehicle.

If you are concerned about CO poisoning, there are many steps you can take to reduce your pet’s exposure to this deadly gas. These include keeping your vehicles and furnace in good condition. However, additional steps such as replacing gas fires, avoiding the use of kerosene lanterns, and reducing your reliance on space heaters and other items that can wrest from your home’s air quality, will benefit you as much as your dog.


About the Author: Now working as a writer, Jackie started her career as a veterinary nurse and has always been an animal lover –  but after becoming a mom refocused and decided to spend more time with her family. When she’s not writing, she volunteers for a number of local animal welfare charities and also has a menagerie of pets to look after, including a sparky whippet called Charlie.