You wouldn’t think it necessary to explain why smoking around pets is bad. To what extent, though, do pets face harm from passive smoking? Because, after all, your pet isn’t exactly being doused in chemicals known to cause cancer, are they?
Wrong. When compared to humans, pets spend a lot more time indoors, making them more vulnerable to the carcinogens that may be present. Furthermore, dogs are just as vulnerable to the effects of these chemicals as humans are. Veterinarian Dr. Jan Bellows, DVM, of All House animals Dental Clinic in Weston, FL, claims that “dog and cat lungs are remarkably equivalent to human lungs.”
To illustrate the risks, consider the findings of recent studies:
Smoke exposure in dogs
Evidence suggests that the length of a dog’s muzzle affects the specific type of cancer it will acquire from exposure to cigarette smoke. Dogs with longer muzzles are at a greater risk for nasal and sinus cancers, as these anatomical features have more surface area on which carcinogens can accumulate, than do dogs with shorter or medium-length muzzles, which are at greater risk for lung cancer. This finding was gleaned from a review of recent studies published on LiveScience.com.
Cats and secondhand smoke
Secondhand smoke increases the risk of oral and lymph node malignancies in cats. When cats clean their fur, they unknowingly ingest the chemicals and toxins that have accumulated there. Veterinarian Carolynn MacAllister from Oklahoma State University says that as animals lick and clean themselves, the carcinogens in the environment can come into contact with the mucous membranes in their mouth.
Cats whose owners smoke a pack a day or more have a threefold increased risk of developing malignant lymphoma, according to research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. And a study published in Veterinary Medicine indicated that the most prevalent and aggressive form of mouth cancer in cats is four times more likely to be diagnosed in cats exposed to smoke from one to 19 cigarettes daily.
Small animals and secondhand smoke
There is a high danger of lung cancer and pneumonia in birds that are exposed to secondhand smoke, as these creatures have particularly sensitive respiratory systems. Rabbits, like humans, can develop cardiac problems after being exposed to secondhand smoking.
Cigarettes are particularly dangerous to animals because of the nicotine they contain; therefore, it is better to never have them in the house.
Positively, a 2008 study published in Tobacco Control found that over a third of pet-parent smokers asked stated they would try to quit smoking if they were informed about the dangers of secondhand smoke to their dogs. Therefore, please tell all your smoking friends about this. I can assure you that they dread the dreaded phone call from their veterinarian that begins, “It’s cancerous.”
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