Are you killing your pets with your smoke ?

Pets are getting all kinds of cancers, no thanks to the smokers who passed the secondhand smoke to the hapless animals. 

Just a sidetrack – I am glad that there is no smoking in confined public places in Singapore. The most recently are the pubs. Secondhand smoke is attributed in the west with killing thousands of adult nonsmokers annually. No matter what is the figure in Singapore, kudos to our government for taking tough but well-appreciated progressive ban in public places. Since July this year, I can walk into any pub to have a nice cold beer and songs with business associates and friends and go home without smelling like a walking piece of shit.

But what about the private confined areas like the individual homes? While many smoking adults might not expose the secondhand smoke to their spouse or children, what about those irresponsible habitual smokers living with pets? 

Secondhand smoke kills cats fast

“Secondhand smoke has been associated with oral cancer and lymphoma in cats, lung and nasal cancer in dogs, as well as lung cancer in birds,” said Dr. Carolynn MacAllister, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service veterinarian. 

Cats that lived with smokers for five or more years had an even higher incidence of squamous cell carcinoma, simply known as mouth cancer.

Cats are twice as likely to have malignant lymphoma cancer compared to cats living in a non-smoking home. It is a type of cancer that occurs in the lymph nodes and is fatal to three out of four cats within 12 months of developing the cancer. 

MacAllister disclosed that one reason cats are so susceptible to secondhand smoke is because cats constantly lick themselves while grooming. By licking their fur, they expose the mucous membrane of their mouth to the cancer-causing carcinogens that accumulate on their fur.

What about dogs? 

MacAllister also pointed out that “a recent study conducted at Colorado State University shows that there is a higher incidence of nasal tumors in dogs living in a home with secondhand smoke compared to dogs living in a smoke free environment,”

She said. “The increased incidence was specifically found among the long nosed breed of dogs. Shorter or medium nosed dogs showed higher rates for lung cancer.” 

MacAllister said the longer nosed breeds of dogs have a great surface area in their noses that is exposed to the carcinogens. This also provides more area in which the carcinogens can accumulate. The carcinogens tend to build up on the mucous membranes of long nosed dogs so not as much reaches the lungs.

Unfortunately, dogs affected with nasal cancer normally do not survive more than one year

The reason short and medium nose dogs have a higher occurrence of lung cancer is because their shorter nasal passages aren’t as effective at accumulating the inhaled secondhand smoke carcinogens,” she said. “This results in more carcinogens reaching the lungs.”

What about birds? 

Pet birds also are victims of secondhand smoke. A bird’s respiratory system is hypersensitive to any type of pollutant in the air.

MacAllister said the most serious consequences of secondhand smoke exposure in birds are pneumonia or lung cancer. Other health risks include eye, skin, heart and fertility problems. 

Killing them at home without smoking  

Secondhand smoke is not the only danger faced by pets that live in smoke filled environments. Poisoning is another risk they face.

 “Curious pets can eat cigarettes and other tobacco products if the products aren’t stored properly,” MacAllister said. “When ingested, this can cause nicotine poisoning, which can be fatal.” 

It is important both for the health of pets and others living in the household, that the smoker has a designated area in which to smoke that is physically separated from the home. In addition, always keep cigarettes, cigarette butts and other tobacco products put away.

A better choice that could enhance your chances of enjoying a healthier lifestyle with your family and pets would be to stop smoking altogether,” MacAllister said. 

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