Of all the overwhelming reasons to quit smoking, this one should make pet lovers sit up and take notice: there's ample scientific evidence to suggest that secondhand cigarette smoke can cause cancer in companion animals.
And we don't just inhale smoke; the smoke particles are also trapped in our fur and ingested when we groom ourselves with our tongues. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that dogs in smoking households had a 60 percent greater risk of lung cancer; a different study published in the same journal showed that long-nosed dogs, such as collies or greyhounds, were twice as likely to develop nasal cancer if they lived with smokers.
And in yet another study, vets from Tufts University found that cats whose caretakers smoked were three times as likely to develop lymphoma, the most common feline cancer.
Because dogs age almost seven times faster than their human companions, secondhand smoke can cause problems fast. While taking your pet in for frequent check up is a good idea, the vets do not do any specific tests to check for early signs of cancer caused by secondhand smoke.
This is not to say that second hand smoke is the cause of cancer in the two animals that live(d) in my bean's sister's household. Indeed, the cause may be completely different. But scientific studies have linked secondhand smoke to many health problems in companion animals: bronchitis, heart disease, and cancer.
Dr. Lynn Weber, a pharmacist, professor and researcher at the University of Saskatchewan, has found some significant changes in the blood vessels of dogs who live in the homes of smokers. During an interview for Dr. Phil Zeltman's pet newsletter, she said: "In people, these changes are linked to stroke and heart attacks. Granted, these diseases are rare in dogs, so I am trying to understand what these changes mean in dogs."
In testing companion animals who live with smokers, researchers in Colorado found toxins from cigarette smoke in dogs' urine. A 2007 study done at the University of Minnesota shows that cats who live with smokers also have nicotine and other toxins in their urine.
According to a study done in 1992, a dog that has exposure to a smoker in the home is 1.6 times more likely to develop lung cancer than a dog that is not exposed to a smoker. Of course things must be taking into consideration when determining the risk factor including the number of smokers in the home, the number of packs of cigarettes smoked in the home per day by the heaviest smoker, and the time the dog spent inside the home, plus the age, sex, body size and skull shape of the animal.
Both Kee and Pee Wee spent a great deal of time in the bedroom with my bean's sister, where she smoked most frequently. Sadly Pee Wee's cancer has progressed to the point that he will have to be helped to the bridge to easy his suffering.
When I live with Loretta-bean, she smoke. But my bean now does not and I do not like the smell of smoke on humans anymore. We have a new neighbor that smoke, and I have started coming and going through the back door, something I never have done before, so I do not need to pass near them.
Sadly while the public is slowly becoming aware of the effect of secondhand smoke, the concept is still unknown to many. Many veterinarians are even unaware of the studies, and as a result, do not talk to their clients about the potential negative effects of secondhand smoke.
The Smoke Free Society has a free flyer that you can print that outlines the effects of secondhand smoke on pets. If you know a pet lover that smokes, be sure to print this out and give them to them so that they are aware of negative effects they could be having on their beloved companion animals. Perhaps it will help them to kick the habit, and save more than the life of their pet.
Please note that my tabby brofur and I are sorry about our erratic posting of late, but my bean have been very busy with this tackes thing she does at day hunting. We will try to post as much as we can, but we hope that you will understand that her tackes hunting is what brings in the green papers to keep us fed and housed, so it is a bit more important than our blogging, which does not.