Booo eyes
Credit: Bailey Weaver on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (ASPCA) posted a blog July 11th, 2014 confirming what many of us already suspected: secondhand smoke can cause cancer in our pets.

Kaia watching the curtain monkeykcxd on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericIn fact, in 2002, a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology by Elizabeth R. Bertone, Laura A. Snyder, and Antony S. Moore revealed that tobacco smoke exposure may increase the risk of malignant lymphoma in cats.

Animals that groom themselves by licking their fur can ingest cigarette toxins from the hands of people who pet them - even if these people smoked outside. And there's another reason: third-hand smoke.

What's third-hand smoke?

It's the smoke that gets trapped in curtains, fabric, furniture, carpets, car upholstery, pet bedding and some types of pet toys. As you can imagine, pets (and babies, for that matter) spend most of their time on the floor. Some cats even climb curtains!

Since the respiration (breathing) rate is faster in those smaller than us, our pets (and children) inhale toxins in the air (or embedded in their surroundings) more times per hour than we do.

Up next is a 2014 Scottish TV commercial (only 42 secs) that demonstrates this last point.

Secondhand Smoke Scottish Government Commercial

For your kids'(and pets') sake, don't smoke indoors. Take it outside.

Dogs, Cats, and Birds

Backdraftaussiegall on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericDogs, cats, and birds can suffer from breathing problems and allergies because of secondhand and third-hand smoke. 

Dogs appear to have a higher risk of developing nasal, sinus, and lung cancer. Dogs with longer noses tend to suffer more from nasal tumours; dogs with shorter noses had a higher incidence of lung cancer. Sadly, doggies with nasal cancer usually die within a year of diagnosis.

Cats are particularly susceptible to mouth cancer and malignant lymphoma. In fact, secondhand smoke exposure could double a cat’s chances of getting cancer; over the course of five years, the risk could quadruple. And about 75% of felines diagnosed with lymphoma die within a year.

Secondhand smoke causes a multitude of problems in birds. These include (but not limited to): eye, fertility problems, heart, pneumonia, lung cancer, and skin conditions.

Cats Lick Toxins Off Their Fur

Credit: Dan Phiffer (dphiffer on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Signs and Symptoms

Just another SaturdayStephanie Gamble on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 GenericPets may exhibit one or many of the following signs and symptoms of illness related to tobacco smoke exposure (and should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible). Dr. Julie Jones (shown in the following video) reminds us of four hallmark symptoms:

  • coughing
  • lethargy (lack of energy/enthusiasm)
  • weight loss
  • not eating

During my research, I discovered a few more ways pets present with secondhand smoke-related illnesses:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge and/or bleeding
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Drooling

Smoking and Pets

by Joel Waldman (featuring lots of dogs and cute kittens)

Other Sources

Wanting OutTony Alter on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericWhen I lived in an apartment building, tenants across the hall from me chain-smoked. Unfortunately, the gap under my door was large enough that smoke wafted into my place every time they opened their door.

So, I bought one of those rubber draft stoppers and attached it to the bottom of my door. It helped immensely. I can imagine that the low-lying smoke rolling into my apartment was even more bothersome (and dangerous) for my two cats than it was for me.

And dogs love to wait for us at the door.

Since some pets like to chew and play with fabric items, I wouldn't suggest using a stuffed animal-type draft blocker for your door (as cute as they are).

Another overlooked source of problems for pets are nicotine cartridges from e-cigarettes. Dr. Elizabeth A. Rozanski from Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine warned, "The greatest danger is the trash, where dogs can find nicotine cartridges from e-cigarettes. You wouldn't think dogs would eat such things, but they do."

Pets are exposed to cigarette or cigar toxins via:

  • breathing in secondhand and third-hand smoke
  • getting into nicotine cartridges from e-cigarettes
  • ingesting cigarettes or cigars (in fact, death can occur if a pet eats 1 - 5 cigarettes or just one-third of a cigar)
  • drinking water contaminated with cigarette ashes or butts
  • ingesting nicotine replacement gum
  • chewing on or eating nicotine patches 
  • being touched by the hands of smokers who pat them (especially cats)

If You Must Smoke

CleanSarah Laval (kittenfc on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericDesignate an area where your pet isn't exposed to the smoke, ash trays, clothing or any contaminated item and wash your hands immediately before touching your pet.

You could also shower and change your clothes.

Even though I never smoked, when I worked in restaurants (before non-smoking laws came into effect), my work clothes reeked of smoke. I put my dirty clothes in a hamper that had a lid.

Better yet, quit the habit (it's not good for you either).

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