Clinical studies have proven that second hand smoke is one of the leading causes of heart disease and lung cancer deaths for thousands of individuals in the United States each year. However, if second hand smoke is bad for us, have you ever considered what it is doing to our defenseless domestic pets? We love our animals and want the best for them, but what we don’t realize is the danger we put them in each day by smoking in our homes, vehicles, and public places. Second-hand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is the smoke that has been exhaled by a smoker or released from the end of a lit cigarette, cigar, or pipe. The smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals such as formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, arsenic, chromium, and benzene to name a few. Studies show that 250 of these chemicals are known causes of different fatal diseases. During the last 30 years, researchers show evidence that people who are repeatedly exposed to ETS are more likely to develop respiratory problems, lung cancer, and heart disease leading to their death. Furthermore, recent studies have also shown domestic animals have developed lung disease and eye irritation from ETS.
Each year ETS causes 7,300 lung cancer and 34,000 heart disease deaths. If the statistics are true for human’s related death to ETS, we can only surmise that the same holds true for our pets.
The Center of Disease Control and Prevention studies show that 126 million Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke each day because of smokers being allowed to smoke in public. However, if we are exposed to secondhand smoke each day so are our pets. Our domestic animals die each year from smoke related illnesses. Second hand smoke has caused nasal and lung cancer in dogs, lymphoma and oral cancer in cats, and even lung cancer in birds.
A study done by the Tufts College of Veterinary Medicine in Massachusetts shows that cats living in the homes of smokers have a higher incidence rate of mouth cancer than that of cats living in smoke free environments. The reason cats are susceptible to this is because of their grooming habits. A cat is constantly licking themselves and they lick up carcinogens into their mouth from their fur. Also, cats living in homes where there are smokers are twice as likely to develop malignant lymphoma which is a cancer that occurs in the lymph nodes. This type of cancer is fatal to three out of four cats that develop it.
Studies also show that dogs, especially long noised breeds, are susceptible to nose and sinus type cancers and those who get the nasal cancer do not usually survive longer than one year. Medium or short nosed dog breeds are more apt to get lung cancer because their shorter nasal passages are not able to accumulate the secondhand smoke carcinogens they inhale and so more of them reach the lungs.
Birds are in danger of lung cancer and pneumonia infections because of their unique respiratory systems and how sensitive they are to air pollutants. Some harmful products in secondhand smoke come in the form of gas that can’t be filtered out with special fans or ventilation systems. After you smoke one cigarette it takes many hours for the dangerous gases to leave the room. Birds not only need to avoid the smoke from a cigarette but also need to avoid the smoke from house fires, burnt food, and burnt Teflon.
Bonding with our animals and sharing our lives with them means that we expose our animals to the same environmental hazards that we are exposed to. Smoking in your home endangers the lives of your family and your animals. Therefore, it is recommended that if you are a smoker that you find a designated smoking area in your home. The sport needs to be isolated and away from the living area of your family and animals. This helps minimize the danger of secondhand smoke that other family members and your animals breathe. However, you can also try to stop smoking all together.