1. Protect Your Pet From the Puff
Cancer, respiratory disease and heart disease. The list of pet maladies caused by exposure to secondhand smoke sounds a bit like those anti smoking commercials showing people suffering from the horrific consequences of smoking. As a veterinary oncologist concerned about the health and well-being not only of my patients but of my clients as well, please consider this evidence and think about what you can do to reduce your pet’s exposure to environmental tobacco.
2. Pets Breathe What We Breathe
If you have ever bought a life insurance policy, you know that many insurance companies often require a physical examination and that that examination frequently includes obtaining a urine sample. One thing insurance companies look for in that sample is cotinine, a metabolite that is an indicator of the presence of nicotine in the body.
If the level of this substance is high, the insurance company knows you are a smoker or are exposed to significant secondhand smoke. As a result, you will likely be charged higher rates for your policy. Inhaled nicotine, whether by direct smoking or through secondhand smoke, metabolizes similarly in humans, cats and dogs. Just as in humans, cotinine can readily be detected in the urine of both dogs and cats exposed to secondhand smoke. As a result, we know that small dogs who spend a good deal of time in the laps of their smoking owners may have cotinine levels equivalent to that of the smokers themselves.
3. Secondhand Smoke and Dogs
Dogs suffer from smoking-related illnesses similar to humans, like cancer and lung disease. Using sophisticated methods of measuring lung function, researchers have identified ways that secondhand smoke can constrict airways and possibly increase the production of mucous in dogs. Exposure to secondhand smoke can also have other negative effects on canine respiratory function. For example, biopsies taken from the windpipes of dogs with confirmed secondhand smoke exposure show a buildup of carbon deposits. Accumulation of carbon is exactly what is seen in smokers’ lungs and part of what leads to the development of lung cancer in smokers. The presence of carbon deposits is just another bit of proof that your smoking is affecting your dog’s health.
4. Secondhand Smoke and Cats
Although we know less about the effects of secondhand smoke, or environmental tobacco exposure, in cats, what we do know is concerning.
Lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system) is the most common tumor in pet cats, and exposure to secondhand smoke appears to increase the risk of a cat developing this disease. In studies, cats with the highest levels of exposure to environmental smoke have been shown to have corresponding increases in the risk of developing lymphoma.