Over the past few decades, there has been a shift from the casual smoking days of older times to banning smoking in public areas, health awareness advertisements and free smoking-cessation campaigns around the globe.
These campaigns continue because people still smoke — but have you ever asked yourself, “Does secondhand smoke harm pets?” According to researchers and veterinarians, the answer is yes.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, 70 of which can cause cancer. Smoking has been linked to lung cancer, heart disease, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma and many more conditions. If secondhand smoke has that kind of effect on humans, what do you think it will do to your pet? Pets breathe oxygen just as we do, but they are susceptible to more carcinogens in other ways.
Does Secondhand Smoke Harm Pets?
Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine performed an experiment on cats living in households with smokers. The hypothesis intended to prove that cats in homes with smokers were more likely to develop fatal conditions as a result.
This 2002 study revealed that cats living with smokers had an increased risk of lymphoma and mouth cancers by double the normal amount. Of those affected with a condition as a result of secondhand smoke, nearly 75% did not survive. If a cat was exposed to secondhand smoke for five years or more, its risk tripled. In households with two smokers, the risk quadrupled. These percentages are hard to ignore.
Dogs, too, are susceptible to health problems from secondhand smoke. Their levels are generally lower than those of cats, but this could come down to two reasons:
- Their risk is less than cats because veterinarians believe a dog’s higher outdoor exposure and frequency of being bathed reduces their intake of carcinogens.
- Cats are not normally bathed; instead, they bathe themselves. The carcinogens settled on the cat’s fur enters their system during grooming, and this increases their risk of becoming ill.
Dr. Steven Brenn asserts that cancers from carcinogen exposure usually develop over extended periods of time, and he references several conditions in dogs thought to be caused by pesticides and herbicides.
This ad attempts to help pet owners take responsibility for their smoking:
What Can I Do to Minimize the Risk?
If you are not prepared to stop smoking immediately, start smoking outside to reduce the exposure to your pets (your fellow human roommates will thank you as well).
Vacuum the interior of your home, wipe down all surfaces and thoroughly groom your pets to remove or reduce the remaining residue on their fur from smoking. Adding an air purifier may help clear the indoor air faster than cleaning alone, so consider this an addition to your indoor nonsmoking change. Cleaning or changing all air-conditioning intake screens and vents will aid in clearing the air.
Talk with your veterinarian about this change and ask what else you might be able to do to help your pets minimize their risk of cancer and other conditions. Some vets will suggest adding vitamins or supplements to help lower the risk levels, and they may have suggestions to help transition your pet to a nonsmoking environment. A health checkup is a good idea for pets.
Consider Your Own Health
Taking the above steps to help improve your pet’s health is definitely a step in the right direction. You should also consider your health. Concern over the risk to pets has helped people to stop smoking themselves, and we hope this will have a positive effect on you as well.
If you still struggle to find a reason to quit, consider the cost. Smoking is getting more expensive, and so is health care. Consider how much you could save by quitting. Is there an item or trip you have postponed because of the cost? Grab a jar and label it for that purpose. Every time you feel inclined to go to the store to buy cigarettes, take that same amount of money and put it in the jar. If there are other smokers in your home, ask them to quit with you — all of you will benefit from the support.
If you are still struggling to quit, there are many free programs provided by organizations and the government for smoking cessation assistance. Make the change today to ensure a longer, healthier life for everyone in your home — and your pets.
- United States Government: The Smokefree Program
- CDC: How to Quit Smoking
- Surgeon General: Risks of Smoking
- United Kingdom: The QUIT Program