Spending time outdoors with your dog will stimulate your dog’s senses and keep him or her fit and healthy. As a dog owner, you’ll typically spend 300 minutes each week walking your dog outside. The problem is most owners walk their dogs in built-up areas that are packed full of traffic. Cars are a leading cause of air pollution, with each one emitting around 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. So, just what is this vehicle pollution doing to your dog’s health and how can you protect your furry companion?

Health risks

Studies have found that dogs that spend large periods of time in polluted outdoor spaces typically have brain inflammation. The protein that causes Alzheimer’s disease is also more likely to be present in their brains. Another piece of research assessed stray dogs who naturally were exposed to more pollution from cars than pet dogs. They found evidence of a mild form of lung disease known as anthracosis. This shows how important it is to limit your dog’s exposure to air pollutants caused by vehicles.

Avoid congested areas

The more traffic congestion there is, the higher the levels of air pollution nearby. You and your dog may love to walk around your local dog park or exercise area, but if it’s close to a high-traffic area, it’s best to avoid it. Rural areas are generally best as there is less traffic in these areas and congestion is uncommon. Parks are usually a good choice, too.

Change your vehicle

A AAA survey found that 56% of dog owners regularly travel with their pooch in the car. It’s great to take your dog out for a fun day, but you could also be exposing him to some serious air pollutants. Studies have found that sitting idle in traffic or at a red light produces 40% more pollution inside the vehicle compared to when moving. Switching to an electric vehicle (EV) is one way to make your car safer for your dog. Multiple states have said that they’ll ban the sale of new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles from 2035, including Virginia, Washington, and California. This has resulted in EV sales going up by 300% in California in just 4 years. This is great news for the future, but by switching to an EV now, you could stop yourself and your dog from developing some serious health problems.

Rethink the timing of your walks

Many dog owners are in the routine of walking their dogs first thing in the morning and again in the evening, but these are the busiest times of the day. Traffic is usually at its heaviest between 7 am and 9 am, 11 am and 2 pm, and between 4 pm and 6 pm. These are the times when vehicle pollution will be at its worst. By simply changing the timing of your walks to avoid these times, you’ll reduce the amount of pollution that your dog is exposed to.

Just like humans, dogs are at risk when they’re exposed to too much pollution caused by vehicles. Follow this handy advice to limit your dog’s exposure and you’ll have a happy and healthy dog for many years to come.


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.