How Smoking Harms Your Pet

Research has long told us that smoking is harmful to humans, and not only those who smoke. Both second- and third-hand smoke can be bothersome at best and disease-causing at worst. This is no different for pets who are exposed to household environmental tobacco smoke.

WHY IS TOBACCO SMOKE HARMFUL?

According the Government of Canada “Tobacco contains more than 4,000 chemicals and more than 70 of these chemicals are known to cause, initiate and promote cancer.” Smoking not only causes cancer, but also increases the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases in both humans and animals.

WHAT IS SECOND-HAND SMOKE?

Second-hand smoke is the smoke that is either exhaled by tobacco smokers or created from burning tobacco. When exhaled, smoke contains particles of chemicals that are heavier than air and will naturally fall instead of rise in the environment. This means these chemicals are falling into the space your pets occupy, causing them to breath in this toxic mixture.

WHAT IS THIRD-HAND SMOKE?

Third-hand smoke is the nicotine and other chemical residues that can be left behind on such things as carpets, curtains, furniture and pet bedding inside a home where smoking occurs. Pets are self groomers and lick their fur to keep themselves clean. It is easy for these residues to stick to pet fur, creating an opportunity for toxins to be ingested.

WHAT DISEASES CAN SECOND-HAND AND THIRD-HAND SMOKE CAUSE IN PETS?

Studies have shown that exposure to environmental tobacco smoke can cause the following increased risks in pets:

  • Lymphoma;
  • Oral cancer;
  • Nasal, sinus and lung cancers;
  • Allergy- or asthma-related; breathing problems;
  • Allergic skin conditions;
  • Eye problems; and
  • Heart problems.

It is important to remember that it is not just dogs and cats being affected by the negative effects of tobacco smoke. According to the FDA, pet birds, guinea pigs and even fish are also very sensitive to these toxins.

TOBACCO TOXICITY FROM ACCIDENTAL INGESTION

Having ashtrays and packages of cigarettes accessible to pets can pose the risk of ingestion to a curious pet. According to ASPCA Poison Control, tobacco toxicity can result in hyperexcitability then depression, vomiting, incoordination, paralysis and possibly death. If you suspect your pet has ingested nicotine, you should contact your veterinarian immediately

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO MINIMIZE YOUR PET’S EXPOSURE TO TOBACCO SMOKE?

The best thing you can do for both you and your pet’s health is to quit smoking. Other alternatives include:

  • Limiting smoking to outdoors only;
  • When smoking indoors, keep the area well ventilated;
  • Try limiting smoking indoors to a room that you can keep your pet out of; and
  • Wash your pet’s bedding and toys frequently to eliminate chemical residues that results from smoking.

For more information on how you can quit smoking, visit www.breakitoff.ca.

 

Kristina Cooper is a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) and proud member of the Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians (OAVT). She has previously worked in both small animal practice and a municipal animal shelter. With a special interest in the relationship between animal and human health she is currently the Provincial Manager of the OAVT Public Health Rabies Response Program and an active One Health Initiative advocate. She can be reached by email at krizzteena@hotmail.com

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