Can Dogs Sense Carbon Monoxide: A Deadly Revelation

ogs’ noses are amazing. Our best friends have sniffed out cancer, and they can tell every individual ingredient in a cake. In fact, their noses are so acute that canines can pick up on changes in human brain chemistry. Moreover, they’re very sensitive to human emotions and alert to changes in their environment. Surely these super pups can sense anything, can’t they? As good as our canine companions are at sniffing out trouble, they do have limitations, and one of them is an invisible killer.

Can dogs sense carbon monoxide? Dogs cannot sense carbon monoxide. Your pets’ first hint that something’s off is when they start to get sick from it. Even then, this is one of the few things your pooch can’t identify on their own. CO gas is truly odorless, not merely outside the human range of perception. 

Why Can’t Dogs Smell Carbon Monoxide

To understand why your dog doesn’t sense carbon monoxide, you need to have a grasp of how they ‘see’ the world. Dogs have all the usual senses, smell, taste, sight, feeling, hearing, temperature, and so forth. There are more than five senses, but none of them will tell you, or your dog that CO gas is endangering your lives.

Your primary sense, for most humans, is sight. We have an incredible ability to observe details and see a large part of the light spectrum. While we certainly don’t have the sharpest eyes in the world, we make up for it with big brains and the ability to work in highly organized groups that pass complicated information.

Doggy sight may not be black and white, but it’s not outstanding either. Canines use their noses, which have three hundred million scent receptors to observe the world around them. Dogs also use a unique feature, the Jacobsons’ Organ, in their snouts to translate scents. The unique organ translates scents into images in a pups’ brain similarly to how our optical nerve sends visual images to our mind.

For your dog, vision is secondary, and while they work in organized groups, mostly they rely on their superpowered sense of smell to perceive the world — more on that in a moment. First, let’s look at other senses as they relate to CO gas.

Can Dogs See Carbon Monoxide

It’s a myth that dogs don’t see color, but can they see CO gas? Well, to begin with, dogs have a limited ability to perceive color. Because they have fewer cones in their eyes than humans, their visual spectrum is limited to shades of blue and yellow.

The cones are an evolutionary feature in the eye that helps species with colored eyesight by translating the variations in light wavelengths. For us, that means reds, yellows, blues and everything between. Your pet lacks the lower end of that spectrum.

Violet light has the most energy of all the visible (to us) light waves, and red has the least. Your dogs’ eyes only pick up around two-thirds of what we see. In short, they need high energy light waves for their limited cones.

If any creature on earth might be able to see carbon dioxide, it’s undoubtedly not humans or canines. There is a creature that has a color spectrum eight times that of your dog, and more than five times more powerful than a human. Unfortunately, they don’t make great pets.

We have three color receptors, and a dog has two. What that means for us and our pets is that carbon monoxide is invisible. If the gas is visible on the light spectrum, to any creature, it’s a mantis shrimp since they have sixteen color receptors and can see more colors than any animal on earth as far as we know.

Can Dogs Feel CO Gas

Since carbon monoxide is a light weight gas, near the same weight as carbon dioxide, which we breathe out, there’s little perceptible difference. In a sense, your dog could ‘feel’ CO if the air was circulating. However, we need to know if they can feel the difference between CO and other gas.

The answer is, not externally. However, they will start to feel the effect of carbon monoxide before you do. Most dogs are smaller than the average human. Resultantly, they have smaller lungs and hearts. CO gas affects how your heart and lungs work together.

Smelling Carbon Monoxide

Dogs can indeed smell almost anything, but carbon monoxide doesn’t have a smell to detect. CO gas is the result of the incomplete burning of carbon-containing fuels. When a substance like kerosene or coal is ignited but doesn’t wholly burn, the result is this dangerous invisible gas.

You can’t make your dog’s nose powerful enough to detect carbon monoxide, but you can help them develop it through play. Using a great toy like the SNiFFiz SmellyMatty Snuffle Mat from Amazon will help your dog use that superpower. Moreover, when you feed them with a snuffle mat, it satisfies their urge to forage, helps them use their brain, and even aids in feeding them more slowly. That helps your dog stay healthy in more ways than one. You can pick up this fantastic toy for your favorite Fido when you click right here.

Where Does Carbon Monoxide Come From

Whether dogs feel it or not, carbon monoxide is common in enclosed spaces like our homes. The gas is released when a carbon-based fuel doesn’t burn off completely. This chemical reaction is totally normal. Sadly, CO gas, like so many things, is not compatible with our bodies.

Many people are unaware of how many household items can poison their air. Sources of this dangerous chemical are all around you, and you may not know it. On the plus side, the fix is easy enough.

To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, you need well-circulated air. Fans are not enough, though they help. Make sure you open windows frequently and have vents to move indoor air outside. Changing out your air regularly will help prevent CO gas poisoning.

Especially in the middle of winter or summer, when temperatures are extreme, people tend to neglect their air quality.  You need to remember to open up windows and vent the old, stale air. Doing this will help keep everyone in your home, including the dog, healthy and breathing safely.

Additionally, make sure all your fuel-burning appliances are adequately vented. A lack of moving air is the most common reason carbon monoxide gas builds up. However, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll never have a problem if you vent well.

Always install and test carbon monoxide alarms in your home. Having a warning could save your life. If the alarm goes off, don’t just turn it off and open a window. It can take a while for the danger to pass once you’re venting.

Venting Carbon Monoxide

If your carbon monoxide alarm goes off, open all the windows. After that, evacuate the premises with your dog immediately. Give your home at least thirty minutes to an hour to clear out with fans running and all the windows open.

Once the gas has moved outdoors, it can dissipate quickly. Effectively the CO gas becomes harmless once you get it out of your enclosed space. Regrettably, getting it out of a body is more complicated.

Carbon Monoxide has a halflife of about five hours, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone. It takes the full time for half the CO gas to pass out of a body. After that, it takes another five hours to expel half of what remains, and so on. Depending on how much your dog ingested, it can take a day or more, assuming they survive the experience.

Sources of Carbon Monoxide at Home

Your dog may already be exposed to carbon monoxide. There are plenty of sources right where you live. While it’s easy enough to avoid a buildup, you need to be aware of potential problems so you can vent them properly.

First, it helps to know that CO gas can travel through your vent system from other parts of the house. Things like broken air conditioners are a potential hazard for your pet and your home. In addition to changing out carbon monoxide detector batteries and checking them monthly, make sure you have an expert check out your appliances every year.

Here are a few of the things the emit carbon monoxide gas in your home and garage:

  • Barbeques
  • Boilers
  • Camp Stoves
  • Cars & Other Motor Vehicles
  • Charcoal Grills
  • Cigarettes & Cigars
  • Charcoal Grills
  • Clothes Dryers
  • Fire Pits
  • Furnaces
  • Gas or Kerosene Heaters & Lamps
  • Gas & Wood Stoves
  • Gas & Wood Fireplaces
  • Generators
  • Lawn Mowers
  • Power Tools (the kind that uses internal combustion engines and requires gasoline to run)
  • Water Heaters

Never assume that your CO gas source is safe for your dog. It’s best to err on the side of overcaution when death is on the line. Your pet trusts you with their life. Be worthy of their devotion.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Dogs

It only takes about ten minutes for a dog to get too much carbon monoxide into their body. Because dogs are more susceptible to carbon monoxide gas, many people think that means they ingest it sooner or take in more of it than humans. The good news is that this is not true. CO gas doesn’t necessarily descend to a dogs’ level like cold air. It’s more to do with their size.

Dogs take in the same air we do, with all the same components. Since they are usually smaller, with less lung capacity and less blood, they feel the effects before we can. Effectively CO gas is worse for them because they take in the same amount using a smaller system.

Failing to sense carbon monoxide can make you and your dog sick. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The effect it has is terrifying. Too much CO gas can kill you both. Unfortunately, this invisible, undetectable gas harms mammals in ongoing and seriously frightening ways.

When you, your dog, or any animal breathes in regular oxygen, it goes from your lungs to your blood. That blood gets pumped around the body by your heart. Your cells run on oxygen and other vital elements that are carried in the blood.

When dogs, people, or other animals inhale CO gas, it bonds to the hemoglobin in your blood-forming carboxyhemoglobin. This means your body isn’t carrying as much oxygen as before because the hemoglobin that takes it around is busy with carbon monoxide instead.

Not having oxygen starves your cells rapidly because they can’t get what they need to live. Without oxygen, most living creatures die. Although it’s not traditional suffocation, the effect is the same. Illness, body shutdown, coma, and death follow if left untreated.

Signs of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Although all these signs can indicate other problems as well, there are no minor symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Everything on this list is the sort of thing you should treat with an immediate rush trip to the nearest veterinary care facility.

1. Lethargy & Weakness

When your dog seems a bit off, you should always pay attention. Weakness, the inability to sit, stand, or walk normally, is always a serious concern. Lethargy, a lack of motivation to move or do normal things is also severe, even when not caused by carbon monoxide. You should go to the vet immediately if you find your dog behaving this way, particularly if they were in an enclosed area.

2. Sudden Vomiting

Nausea is one of the most common symptoms of CO gas exposure. If your dog suddenly starts throwing up all over the place, especially if they’ve been in an un-vented area, or if they exhibit any of the other symptoms, you should act right away. Carbon monoxide poisoning does not get better if you leave it alone, and it will kill both you and your dog.

3. Difficulty Breathing

Breathing problems typically occur before the loss of consciousness, but not always. Don’t assume your dog will have trouble getting a breath, or that not having one means he’s safe. Get your pooch outside right away. Anytime an animal starts having problems breathing, you should treat it as an emergency. It goes without saying that air is necessary for life.

4. Seizures

When a brain doesn’t get enough oxygen to function, seizures are prevalent as a side effect. If your dog falls over and paddles his feet in the air, or suddenly stares off into space, with or without random and excessive drooling, chewing or licking he may be seizing. It’s best not to try and move him while the seizure is happening, but if he’s in imminent danger, it’s better than leaving him to die.

5. Loss of Consciousness

Unconsciousness is the last stage of acute carbon monoxide poisoning. If you ever see your dog lying down and you can’t wake him up, get him to the vet or emergency animal hospital now. Once there, trained personnel will try and save his life.

6. Death

When I say you need to act quickly, it’s not to build a sense of urgency. Pets and even small children can die from exposure to CO gas in as little as fifteen minutes. This is especially true if they’re in a tiny space like a car.

If your dog is convalescing from carbon monoxide poisoning, make sure they stay hydrated and have a comfortable place to sleep. I recommend the Joyelf Orthopedic Dog Bed from Amazon. A healing pooch needs an excellent place to rest, and this bed will keep their spine aligned so they can get better without pain. To check prices and availability, click here.

Sometimes Being Outdoors is Not Enough

I know that I mentioned earlier to get your dog outside and that carbon monoxide gets neutralized once it dissipates. However, there are exceptions to this rule. Dogs’ sensitivity means that they can get CO gas poisoning even while they are outside if the source is sufficiently concentrated.

Some prime examples of this include dogs standing near the tailpipes of vehicles, and downwind from fires. Anytime your dog is at risk from a potential source of CO gas, you need to keep an eye on them. Better still, keep them away from these hazards.

If you can’t avoid carbon monoxide altogether, the next best thing to do is help your dog filter it out. I suggest picking up a Pure Air X1 K9 Mask for your pet. If you live in a crowded city, or just like to sit around the campfire, having one of these on could help keep your dog from getting sick. For more details, click here

Keep in mind; there is no such thing as a safe, enclosed space. Although it takes longer to fill a larger area, like a warehouse, than it does to fill a car, it can still happen. Working dogs are at risk too. If they’re inside a building, or in an outdoor area with a concentration of carbon monoxide gas, they can get sick or worse very quickly.

Final Thoughts

Your canine companion loves and trusts you. There are many stories of brave doggies saving the lives of their humans. However, when it comes to CO, you’ll have to return the favor. As one of the few things your favorite Fido can’t smell, you need another way to detect carbon monoxide to stay safe.

CO is more dangerous for your dog than it is for you, but it can kill you both. You should always have proper carbon monoxide detectors installed in your house. Turning them on could save your life or your dogs’.

As invisible dangers go, there are few that your pet can’t sense. Unfortunately, Carbon Dioxide is one of the few things they can’t warn you about because they don’t know it’s there until it’s too late.

Recent Posts