Many people consider smoking cigarettes to be a slow form of suicide; even smokers admit that they’re killing themselves, and still it’s not motivation enough to quit the habit. But what if they knew that their second hand smoke was also killing their pets slowly and painfully?
According to Dr. Ian Bellows, veterinarian at All Pets Dental Clinic, there’s virtually no difference between our lungs and those of cats and dogs. This means that carcinogenic substances are as dangerous for our pets as they are for us.
Countless studies have shown the detrimental impact of second hand smoke on other people who live with smokers. Now, as pets evolve from animals in the house to bona fide family members, researchers are paying more attention to the health implications of second hand smoke exposure on dogs, cats and even rabbits. The aim is to determine if pets exposed to second hand smoke are at greater risk of developing serious health issues than pets who aren’t.
No surprise there
Recently, scientists at the University of Glasgow linked certain conditions, such as cancer, weight gain and cell damage, to pets living in a smoking environment. In general, cats are more at risk than dogs because they ingest more toxins through grooming.
How second hand smoke affects our pets
Studies have shown that the toxins affect different animals in different ways. For example, muzzle length plays a role in the type of cancer that develops from second hand smoke. Dogs with long muzzles have a higher risk of developing nose and sinus cancers because the bigger surface area enables far more carcinogens to accumulate. Dogs with short and medium length muzzles are more prone to lung cancer.
An indirect impact on dogs is weight gain. Neutered dogs who live with smokers are more likely to gain weight than neutered dogs in smoke-free homes.
Cats are more at risk of developing mouth and lymph node cancer. This is because cats ingest toxins on their fur when they groom themselves. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that cats who live in homes where 20 or more cigarettes are smoked daily are three times more likely to develop malignant lymphomas than cats living in smoke-free homes.
The results of a study published in Veterinary Medicine have shown that cats who live in homes with light smokers (1 – 19 cigarettes per day) are four times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma, a particularly aggressive type of oral cancer.
Who is more at risk than cats?
Birds are more at risk of developing health problems from second hand smoke, especially lung cancer and pneumonia.
Rabbits are also at risk, as exposure to the carcinogens in cigarette smoke increase the risk of heart problems. As rabbits are also big groomers, they face similar risks as cats when it comes to oral and lymph node cancer.
Danger to pets = motivation to quit
Way back in 2008, a study published in Tobacco Control showed that a third of respondents (smokers with pets) would quit smoking if it meant saving their pets’ lives and health.
Only quitting will do because limiting your pet’s exposure to cigarette smoke isn’t sufficient to limit the damage.
For example, according to researcher Victoria Smith, the risk of cats developing lymphoma is reduced but not eliminated when owners only smoke when their cats aren’t present. It’s the lingering impact of smoke particles and carcinogens that gradually settle that is the problem. The chances of lung cancer may be reduced, but cats still ingest toxins through grooming.
So, your best bet to save your best friend’s life is to quit smoking entirely. If you can’t do it for your own good, do it for the good of your furry family.