There has been much research done on the effects of passive smoking and the damage that it can do to those in the surrounding area. Smoking has already been prohibited in public spaces like pubs and restaurants in many countries around the world. While most of the attention is what passive smoking can do to other human beings, less is said of how it affects our household pets. It’s something we should be taking seriously.
Recent research at the University of Glasgow has found that pets exposed to second hand smoke are actually more likely to develop serious health problems than adults.
Statistics show that about 30% of pet owners in the US have someone in the family who smokes. When you think that hundreds of thousands of people around the world lose their lives because of long term exposure to second hand smoke every year, it makes perfect sense that pets from dogs and cats to budgies and hamsters are more likely to be susceptible because of their size.
What is Second Hand Smoke?
Second hand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke pollutes the air in two main ways. First there is the smoke and toxins that are created from the burning cigarette. Then there is the additional smoke that is exhaled by the user. Direct cigarette smoke is obviously the more toxic and has been shown to contain a number of carcinogens that can harm those standing nearby.
But there is also now an issue with third hand smoke where particles settle on carpets, furniture and the fur of animals such as dogs and cats. Particularly for cats, this presents a major problem.
Did you know that there are over 7,000 different chemicals in cigarette smoke of which 70 are known to cause cancer? Second hand smoke can cause other health problems such as heart disease and stroke as well. It’s also been linked to mental health problems such as depression in humans.
Pets tend to gravitate to their owners and spend time being close to them, particularly dogs, and if you smoke then you are exposing them to harm.
Second Hand Smoke and Your Cat
Cats can suffer in a couple of ways from cigarette smoke. First of all, they have small and sensitive lungs and research in Sweden showed that the majority of cats which lived in a smoking home had pathological changes to this area of the body. But cats are also quite meticulous in their cleaning habits. They are constantly licking their fur and grooming.
Cigarette smoke doesn’t just vanish into thin air, it settles on the surrounding area, including the coat of your cat. Cleaning their fur can mean ingesting significant amounts of toxins with a smoker around. For this reason, compared to other pets, cats are more likely to develop cancer of the mouth.
Cats are susceptible to lung conditions such as asthma but are also prone to malignant lymphoma and squamous cell carcinoma. There is much more incidence of these two diseases in cats that have a smoker in the family.
Second Hand Smoke and Your Dog
There has been research undertaken in Colorado that suggest there is a higher likelihood of nasal cancer in dogs that live in a smoking home. This seems to vary with snout length and dogs with a longer muzzle are more susceptible. This could be because there is a greater area for carcinogens to lodge and cause damage.
Dogs also spend more time with their owners than cats which tend to be solitary in nature. This means they are generally exposed to more smoke than other household animals. It can lead to problems with the lungs, as in all pets, including the development of cancer.
Second Hand Smoke and Smaller Pets
Smaller animals such as birds and rodents are highly susceptible to passive smoke. They have small lungs and are fragile compared to cats and dogs. Small amounts of toxins can cause them great harm and lead to life threatening illnesses. Even reptiles that live a vivarium are not immune to second hand smoke.
What Should You Be Doing?
First of all, we recommend that you give up smoking for the benefit of your own health as well as that of your pet. If this is not possible at the moment, then there are a number of things you can do to make sure your cat, dog or other pets are exposed to deadly carcinogens as little as possible.
The Cost of Passive Smoking and Pets
If your pet is subjected to passive smoking and develops a disease like cancer, it can not only be heart breaking to have to deal with but could cost you a lot of money at the vets. Many pet insurance companies are now thinking about excluding certain illnesses or diseases from their policies if a member of the household smokes.
Most pet owners are surprisingly unaware of the effects of second hand smoke on their pets but evidence is beginning to accumulate to show that it is just as harmful as for human beings. You wouldn’t subject a child to the effects of passive smoking so why should you do it to your cat or dog?