The dangers of secondhand smoke are well documented in people – but have you ever stopped to think what it might be doing to your pets?
The toxins produced by cigarette smoke – arsenic, benzene, nickel to name a few – cause a number of health risks for household animals and, unfortunately, no single species is immune to the effects of secondhand smoke. Common health issues include respiratory problems, allergies, pneumonia, skin and heart disease and, most alarmingly, cancer.
The types of cancer produced – be it oral, nasal, lymphoma or lung cancer – depend very much on the size and type of animal exposed. And, even more worrying, the behavioral habits of each individual species have a direct influence too.
Felines are at greater risk of developing oral cancer and lymphoma (one of the leading causes of death in cats). Research from Tufts University shows repeated exposure to secondhand smoke doubles a cat’s chances of getting lymphoma, while living with a smoker for more than five years increases that risk fourfold. Scary.
After you smoke, the toxic fumes linger around, attaching themselves to skin, fur, clothing, and furniture (third-hand smoke) – basically every inch of the house including your pet. Given the way cats groom themselves, they are directly ingesting the toxins attached to their fur, thus increasing the risk of mouth cancer.
Although smoke fumes stick to their fur too, a canine’s natural curiosity means they spend a lot of time sniffing, putting them in greater danger of developing lung and nasal cancer. And, while that link is obvious in smokey households, dogs regularly exposed to cigarette smoke during their daily walks are also at risk.
Studies from different veterinary schools show that long-nose breeds such as Greyhounds, Borzoi, and Dachshunds are at greater risk of developing nasal cancer. While shorter and medium-nosed breeds – pugs, boxers, and terriers – have a higher possibility of developing lung cancer.
Unlike dogs and cats, birds have hypersensitive respiratory systems. Combine that with their small size, and secondhand smoke puts them at high risk of developing lung cancer, pneumonia, as well as issues with eyes, skin, heart and fertility. And, because birds are pretty much stuck in their cages all day, they have no escape from those toxic fumes.
So is vaping a safer alternative?
Probably not. While vapes tend to have fewer chemicals, they still carry several potentially dangerous ingredients such as formaldehyde, diethylene glycol, and nitrosamine that are best not inhaled by your pets. Another potential danger is your pet accidentally ingesting the cartridges. They quickly mount up – so be mindful of how you dispose of them.
Besides their outdoor adventures, your pets pretty much spend their entire lives inside your home. So, if you smoke indoors, you’re posing a big threat to their health.
Pets are our beloved family members. Our first and last thought should be to safeguard them wherever possible. The best solution is probably to take cigarettes and vapes outdoors. Permanently. Then dispose of them safely out of your pet’s reach.
If you are a smoker and you’re worried about exposure to your pets, it’s probably worth speaking to a veterinary professional. Be vigilant of potential warning signs, such as coughing, trouble eating or breathing, drooling, weight loss, vomiting, nasal discharge,bleeding and sneezing.
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