Summer of 2023 Dangers: Protect Your Companion Pets

Every summer we seem to discuss some environmental anomaly whether it is bugs or the weather. Unfortunately, these anomalies such as cyanotoxins in water are no longer anomalies but are normalcies. Thus far in 2023, North America has experienced three distinct yet entwined anomalies that can affect your companion pet’s health and will more than likely become normalcies. Topping it all off, the Fourth of July celebrations are a few days away.

Canadian and Other Wildfires

The Canadian wildfires of 2023 have been burning since early May and appear to be affecting air quality in waves across much of North America for longer periods of time. Now the smoky haze is settling over Europe as well.

Californian wildfires have affected air quality in several states in previous years. However, in those instances, the air quality appeared to be affected for only a few days or a week.

In fact, the air quality is so poor right now that the Michigan Department of Agriculture as well as several other states have issued an alert to companion pet parents on Tuesday, June 27, 2023. In part it reads:

“Today, the State Veterinarian’s Office released the following statement due to the recent air quality alert issued for Michigan. The alert was issued because of elevated levels of fine particulate matter due to wildfire smoke from Canada.

‘Similar to humans, animals are also affected when there are issues with air quality, especially birds, animals with underlying respiratory and heart conditions, and other sensitive populations—such as young or senior animals,’ said Assistant State Veterinarian, Jennifer Calogero, DVM, PhD. ‘If animals are being negatively affected by breathing poor quality air, they could exhibit various signs of illness, including coughing, wheezing, having difficulties breathing, eye drainage, lethargy, changing the sound of their vocalization, decreased appetite, and thirst. For any concerns related to the health of your animals, please contact your veterinarian.’

To best protect animals from poor quality air, follow these three easy tips:

  • Keeping animals indoors with doors and windows closed and limiting the amount of time they spend outdoors.
  • Avoiding strenuous activities/exercise.
  • Ensuring clean air flow when indoors by using fans, air conditioners, air purifiers, etc.

If you have additional questions related to the health of your animals, always be sure to contact your veterinarian.”

Please note: They are not recommending masking pets at this time.

The Canadian wildfires are not just affecting Great Lake States like Michigan, but many of the Midwestern States and are rolling over to the East Coast as well. Even if air quality improves in an area, it could become poor again in the future due to more fires.


As of June 28, 2023, five cases of malaria were identified in Florida and Texas.

While malaria itself is not uncommon in certain world places, malaria in the United States is an anomaly unless someone had contracted the disease in another country. The anomaly in this instance is that none of the five cases apparently were in people who travelled internationally.  Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) deemed malaria as eradicated in the United States in 1970.

What is malaria? Malaria is passed around by mosquitoes and is a parasite (but not the heartworm parasite).

Can companion dogs and cats catch malaria? Yes.

Will ivermectin (Heartgard) or other common heartworm preventatives protect my pet from malaria? Studies in Africa have shown that ivermectin may reduce malaria transmission. Other macrocyclic lactones like milbemycin oxime may also help, as could the currently popular flea and tick preventatives in the isoxazoline and spinosyn classes. [Please see our previous posts about documented safety concerns with these flea and tick products.]

BUT!!! It is not recommended that you ingest your companion pet’s heartworm preventative or flea and tick preventative, or purchase over-the-counter ivermectin to self-medicate against malaria.

It is also not a license to give your companion pet these to combat malaria. Yes; Dr. Dodds and Hemopet approve the use of monthly heartworm preventatives against heartworm. Protection against malaria may be an added bonus, but we still need to see and review confirmatory research studies.

The antiparasitic drug-malarial studies varied from simulations to mass drug administrations in different mammalian populations like cattle. So, the studies have been constructed differently than heartworm studies based on the mechanisms of drug action, administration, dosage, frequency, targeted parasite, etc.

Our point here is to go to your physician if you are experiencing fever, chills, headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. In severe cases, you can experience unusual bleeding, jaundice and difficulty breathing. Prescription antimalarial drugs are available.

Also, if your companion pet is showing signs of disease or infection, promptly take him to your veterinarian.

To prevent or reduce the load of mosquitoes in your area, PetMD provides suggestions about chemical and natural preventatives as well as basic housekeeping.

The CDC provides other tips such as:

  • Install or repair and use window and door screens.
  • Close doors, including garage doors. Do not leave doors propped open.
  • Use air conditioning when possible.

Heat Wave

Much of the South – particularly Texas – has been experiencing unrelenting heat for the past few weeks. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) provides excellent tips on keeping your pet cool. The first tip from HSUS is not locking your pet in a hot car. Most of us know this, but please keep scrolling here for great ideas to avoid heat stroke.

The Theme

The theme that runs through each of these dangers (Air Quality, Malaria, and Heat Waves) and pet safety is to keep your companion pets indoors with the air conditioning or strong fan on.

A concern in Texas is the strain on the power grid due to the heat and subsequent air conditioning usage. However, Texas is not the only part of North America that could or does experience power outages.

If you are feeding food to your companion dogs that requires refrigeration, we urge you to have a backup bag of freeze-dried or dehydrated foods, canned foods or kibble. Please also have plenty of water on hand if your water supply becomes tainted this summer.

Our post titled, “The Importance of Practicality,” provides resources and tips on preparing for disasters with an emphasis on companion pet food.

P.S. Don’t forget to keep fresh water bountiful for your pet!

Additional References

Chaccour, Carlos J et al. “Establishment of the Ivermectin Research for Malaria Elimination Network: updating the research agenda.” Malaria journal vol. 14 243. 11 Jun. 2015, doi:10.1186/s12936-015-0691-6,

Eba, Kasahun et al. “Effect of Ivermectin® on survivorship and fertility of Anopheles arabiensis in Ethiopia: an in vitro study.” Malaria journal vol. 22,1 12. 9 Jan. 2023, doi:10.1186/s12936-023-04440-6,

Meredith, Hannah R et al. “Optimising systemic insecticide use to improve malaria control.” BMJ global health vol. 4,6 e001776. 11 Nov. 2019, doi:10.1136/bmjgh-2019-001776,

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