HOUSTON — As the ominous-looking black plume from the Deer Park fire continues to spread across the area, many are wondering about health effects for people – and animals.

City and county leaders say the air is being closely monitored and, so far, the levels are safe, but the situation could change quickly with a shift of the wind.

People with respiratory illnesses like asthma or COPD might notice moderate effects from the smoke plume. Here's more on the possible threat to people.

Animals exposed to chemicals released from burned materials – including petroleum products such as Xylene, Naphtha and gasoline – can result in severe lung injury, according to the Harris County Animal Shelter. That can lead to chemical pneumonitis, a life-threatening condition in which the petroleum product spreads all over the surface of the lungs:

Pets at highest risk:

Very young and very old pets

Pets with respiratory issues

Birds

Exposure can cause:

Difficulty breathing (i.e. choking, coughing, gagging)

Fever

Vomiting, diarrhea and dizziness

Confusion and depression

Abdominal pain

Blue or purple skin or gums

Excessive salivation

Pawing at the muzzle/chomping the jaws

Head shaking

Trouble walking (ataxia)

Seizures

Irregular heartbeat

Respiratory arrest

Loss of consciousness/coma

Loss of all bodily functions

How to protect pets:

Bring outdoor animals inside to reduce exposure

Bathe animals to remove toxins and reduce consumption through grooming

Limit outdoor exercise when smoke is visible

Forgo using heating or air conditioning when the smoke is nearby because they tend to draw in air from the outside.

Visit your veterinarian if your pet shows any of the symptoms listed above.

Call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-764-7661 for life-saving treatment advice.

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