Is Your Pet A Smoker?

Over the past few years there have been ample warnings, debates and even advertising campaigns that all tout the harmful effects of second hand smoke on both adults and children. But what about pets?

If you smoke, you can rest assured that your pet is a smoker too!

A study conducted in 2007 at the Tuft College of Veterinary Medicine, concluded that there was a very strong link between secondhand smoke and certain types of cancer in cats. Cats that had squamous cell carcinoma, or mouth cancer, more often lived in homes with second hand smoke than those cats that lived in a smoke free home. Even worse, was that cats who lived for longer than 5 years in a smoker’s home, were more likely to have oral cancer than a cat that did not.

Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service veterinarian, Dr. Carolynn MacAllister, explained that:

“One reason cats are so susceptible to secondhand smoke is because of their grooming habits. Cats constantly lick themselves while grooming, therefore they lick up the cancer-causing carcinogens that accumulate on their fur. This grooming behavior exposes the mucous membrane of their mouth to the cancer-causing carcinogens.”

“Secondhand smoke has been associated with oral cancer and lymphoma in cats, lung and nasal cancer in dogs, as well as lung cancer in birds.”

Dr MacAllister says that there is also a correlation between second hand smoke and lung, nose and sinus cancer in dogs.

“A recent study conducted at Colorado State University shows that there is a higher incidence of nasal tumors in dogs living in a home with secondhand smoke compared to dogs living in a smoke free environment,” she explained. “The increased incidence was specifically found among the long nosed breed of dogs. Shorter or medium nosed dogs showed higher rates for lung cancer.”

It seems that longer nose breeds actually have a larger surface on their noses that is exposed to the carcinogens. This allows the carcinogens to build up on the mucous membranes, which prevents them from reaching the dog’s lungs. However, those dogs that do contract nasal cancer do not live longer than a year.

“The reason short and medium nose dogs have a higher occurrence of lung cancer is because their shorter nasal passages aren’t as effective at accumulating the inhaled secondhand smoke carcinogens,” Dr MacAllister explained. “This results in more carcinogens reaching the lungs.”

The good news however, is that a recent study that was published in the journal Tobacco Control illustrated that there was a considerable amount of smoking pet owners who would actually attempt to quit smoking, if the dangers of second hand smoke on their pets was explained to them.

The study conducted by the Henry Ford Health System’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, polled 3,293 adult pet owners during an internet survey. Of these people, 21% said they were smokers whilst 27% said that they lived with at least one smoker in their household. Another 40% of both smoking and non-smoking pet owners who took part in the survey actually admitted that if the dangers of second hand smoke on their pets was explained to them, that they would either quite smoking themselves or they would try to help their fellow household smokers quit.

If you are trying to quit smoking yourself or trying to help someone else quit, you can reference a study that was placed in the American Journal of Epidemiology, which found that dogs that lived in a smoker’s house had a 60% greater chance of developing lung cancer. Collies, Greyhounds and other such long-nosed dogs were twice as more likely to develop nasal cancer if their owner smoked, than those long-nosed dogs who did not live in a smoking household.

Tobacco smoke can also cause severe allergic reactions in dogs and cats, and respiratory problems in animals that have smaller lung capacity, such as pet birds, hamsters and mice. Undisciplined pet owners who drop their cigarette butts on the ground, either in their own home or yard, or whilst out in public, run the risk of a dog or cat (or other animal) finding and eating the butt. These animals would then become poised by the tobacco contained in the cigarette butt.

If you or someone you know is a smoker but are not yet ready to quit, you can help your pet not becoming a smoker by remembering to smoke outside the house and regularly replace your air filters inside your house and car to help keep the air that your pet breathes free of tobacco smoke.

Also remember to take your pet for regular grooming and bathing sessions in order to remove any excess tobacco particles on their fur. Thoroughly wash and disinfect your pets bedding and clothes as well.

Photo Credit: indi.ca

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