In a way, it's not true. Dogs aren't able to sense or smell carbon monoxide, so they're not able to alert their owners to its presence before it happens or when the first leak of carbon monoxide is evident, but it is true that dogs will be affected by carbon monoxide much quicker than humans.
So, while it's highly unlikely that your dog will sense carbon monoxide, they can still help bring your attention to its presence by feeling the effects early on. If you're interested in what signs you should watch for to determine if your dog is feeling the effects of carbon monoxide, read on!
Signs Your Dog is Reacting to Carbon Monoxide
The first sign that your dog is being affected by carbon monoxide is a sleepy, lethargic, or tired pup. Carbon monoxide poisoning is known for making people and animals weak and sleepy, so if you notice your dog behaving this way, make sure you act fast.
It's also common for dogs to have reddened gums or skin, experience stomach issues, lack coordination, trip, fall, and stumble, as well as experience collapse and shock-like symptoms. If you notice your dog going through any of these symptoms, get him or her to the vet immediately.
- Lack of focus
- Sweaty paws
- Tail tucking
- Extreme lethargy
- Red skin
- Red gums
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Stumbling, falling, or tripping
- Gastrointestinal upset
- Lack of coordination
The History of Dogs and Carbon Monoxide
Historically, smaller animals (and smaller humans) will feel the effects much faster than average-sized people. Because their immune systems are smaller, they're much more susceptible to CO poisoning - in fact, they can be affected as soon as 10 minutes after a leak happens. If your dog is affected by CO poisoning, it's likely they'll have to deal with oxygen therapy and will need plenty of time to heal.
The Science of Carbon Monoxide and Dogs
When CO is absorbed into someone's bloodstream, it forms a compound that causes hypoxia, also known as reduced oxygen supply, of the heart and the brain. If your dog does sense carbon monoxide or alert you to its presence, it's not because they're able to smell the gas - rather, they heard the CO alarm when you didn't or they're able to smell fuel or other products burning that caused the CO leak in the first place.
Training Your Dog to Detect Carbon Monoxide
You can, however, train your dog to pay attention to your carbon monoxide alarm if you're unable to hear it. Train your dog to react in a specific way when your carbon monoxide alarm goes off. You can do this by using the sound and associating a certain action for your dog.
For example, train your dog to understand that when that sound happens, he or she should run to your room and start barking. When he or she does this, reward them with a treat. Do this consistently until your dog understands the link between the sound, the action, and the treat.
How to React if Your Dog has Been Exposed to Carbon Monoxide:
Check your dog's gums, skin, and mood. If he or she is exhibiting any signs as stated above, evacuate the house immediately.
Call 911 and your vet as quickly as possible.
Ensure everyone is out of the house.
Contact someone to have your home tested for CO.