March 20, 2019
On Sunday morning, a chemical tank at Intercontinental Terminal Company in Deer Park caught on fire and continued to spread to several other tanks, feeding flames, and smoke that were seen up to 40 miles away. As of Wednesday morning, the fire has been extinguished. Still, many people are wondering how the exposure to lingering fumes and chemicals will affect our health…but what about our pets?
Fortunately, there does not appear to be an imminent threat at this time because the smoke plume remained high enough to avoid direct inhalation for us and our pets. While the growing black cloud was ominous to watch, the increased wind carry means that any chemical concentrations in the air will be substantially diluted, and officials have confirmed that it should not be harmful.
We checked the air quality reading for the neighborhood surrounding our hospital, and the most recent status is listed as ‘Moderate,’ which indicates that “unusually sensitive people should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors,” according to Airnow.gov. This warning should also be considered for pets with a known respiratory problem or sensitivity.
Our team also reached out to the experts at the Pet Poison Helpline and spoke with Dr. Tabatha Regehr in Clinical Toxicology for her thoughts on the dangers of smoke inhalation and chemical toxicity for our furry friends.
Dr. Regehr explained that regardless of the cause, respiratory irritants can create problems for pets, especially those who are asthmatic or sensitive to inhalants. Cats may be more susceptible to respiratory problems, and as a precaution, outdoor cats should be brought inside and monitored.
Even though the fire is now out, smoke and debris may still be visible. Here are Dr. Regehr’s recommendations for pet owners in Houston:
- Avoid outdoor exercise with pets. Short walks are safe, but steer clear of running and intense cardio exercise to avoid deep inhalation.
- Keep pets inside as much as reasonably possible. Bring in outside pets if possible, and be especially careful with pets that are sensitive to respiratory inhalants or pets with an underlying respiratory disease.
- Keep windows and doors closed at home as much as possible. This will avoid exposure to outdoor air. Additionally, if birds are in the home, be even more cautious about keeping windows closed, as they are very sensitive to inhalants.
While we are confident that pets in the city remain safe from immediate dangers, we encourage you to monitor your pet for any concerning behaviors. Please give us a call if you observe any of the following symptoms in your pet:
- Difficulty breathing
- Increased respiratory rate
- Coughing or wheezing
- Lethargy or weakness
- Foaming at the mouth
As always our team is here if you have any questions about your pet’s health. Please give us a call at 713-659-0650 if you need to make an appointment to have your pet evaluated, or schedule your visit online.
The Pet Poison Helpline is also available 24/7 if you have any concerns after hours.
As of Thursday morning, officials have issued a shelter in place warning for the city of Deer Park due to an elevated level of Benzene in the air at the ITC facility where the chemical plant fire was recently extinguished. The warning is currently only for the community of Deer Park, and air quality levels around the city remain at ‘’Moderate’.
While any health concerns for our pets are still largely unknown, and we have not seen any concerning symptoms in animals of our community, we encourage pet owners to follow Dr. Tabatha Regehr’s recommendations from the Pet Poison Helpline until this is resolved.
We will continue to keep you informed regarding any updates for your pet’s health. Please give us a call with any questions or concerns, or schedule an appointment online if you would like a check-up for your pet.