Does secondhand smoke affect your pet?

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Does secondhand smoke affect your pet?

One of the best things about having a pet is that he forces you to be responsible for something other than yourself. If you’re used to coming home late at night or sleeping in until noon, a pet doesn’t let that happen because of his daily schedule and needs – demanding food, attention, and exercise all day, every day. He makes you think about his well-being, health, and overall lifestyle above your own.

So when it comes to what your pet eats, where he lives, how much exercise he gets, and how well he behaves, it’s important to make responsible choices. You need to make sure he doesn’t eat too much, lie around too often, or inhale secondhand smoke.

If you smoke, that’s on you. I’m not going to sit here and tell you to quit because a) it’s none of my business; and b) you’ve already heard every reason under the sun. What I am going to do is tell you to stop smoking around your pet because secondhand smoke (also known as Environmental Tobacco Smoke or ETS) can cause serious damage to your pet. Not only are they breathing it in – through the air, clothes, carpet, and furniture – they can ingest toxic particles from the ground or ash tray. In fact, dogs and cats are twice as likely to get cancer if their owner smokes.

"There have been a number of scientific papers recently that have reported the significant health threat secondhand smoke poses to pets, says Dr. Carolynn MacAllister, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service veterinarian, in an article for Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. "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."

Pets are like kids when it comes to secondhand smoke. They develop some of the same respiratory infections, asthma attacks, and ear infections as children, especially if the pet is young and still developing. The toxic chemicals associated with secondhand smoke irritate the sensitive surface of our pets’ eyes, nose, mouth, and lungs, says Dr. Denise Petryk, DVM and in-house veterinarian for Trupanion. Because of pets’ exposure to secondhand smoke, toxins are found in their urine and pets are developing nasal, mouth, and lung cancer. In fact, according to Dr. Petryk, if you’re a smoker and your pet is exhibiting any of these health problems, it may be because he’s exposed to secondhand smoke:

  • Coughing

  • Respiratory infections like bronchitis and pneumonia

  • Drooling

  • Exacerbation of inhalant allergies

  • Vomiting

  • Irritated eyes and conjunctivitis

  • Tracheal collapse in susceptible dog breeds

  • Heart problems

So what can you do to protect your pet from secondhand smoke? Quit smoking, obviously, but if you can’t do that, make sure you

  • Smoke outside away from your pet.

  • Keep her away from cigarette butts and ashtrays. Dr. Petryk says eating cigarettes and cigars can be fatal.

  • Use an air purifier in your home to remove excess toxins.

  • Keep a clean house. Wash your bedding and her bedding regularly and keep her leash, toys, and bowls tobacco residue-free.

  • Take her to the vet. Maintain regular vet visits and wellness checkups to keep her healthy and happy. And take her to the vet the second she starts exhibiting any secondhand smoke symptoms.

  • Wash your hands after smoking, especially before you touch your pet.

  • Bathe regularly. Bathe yourself and bathe your pet to remove any built-up tobacco residue that lingers on skin and fur.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, truth has been running a #CATmageddon campaign all over the television and internet, urging smokers to treat their best friends (i.e. pets) like real best friends and do right by them. Smoking = No Cats = NO Cat videos. (And what’s scarier than that?)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLtschJxRy8

The truth campaign reminds us that secondhand smoke is dangerous to all pets. Pets are important to us and make us happy and healthy, and we owe them the chance and right to live a long, tobacco-free life.

Image: Tony Cheng