A leading U.S. veterinarian has suggested that secondhand smoke is a health threat to house pets such as dogs, cats and birds. Previous studies have already shown the deadly effects of secondhand smoke on non-smoking human beings. But, Dr. Carolynn MacAllister, a Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service, veterinarian, says that secondhand smoke is associated with oral cancer and lymphoma in cats, lung and nasal cancer in dogs and lung cancer in birds.
To prove her point, MacAllister employed a study conducted recently at Tuft College of Veterinary Medicine, which found that the incidence of mouth cancer was higher for cats living with smokers.
“One reason cats are so susceptible to secondhand smoke is because of their grooming habits. Cats constantly lick themselves while grooming, therefore they lick up the cancer-causing carcinogens that accumulate on their fur. This grooming behavior exposes the mucous membrane of their mouth to the cancer-causing carcinogens,” she said.
A study at Colorado State University said 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 longer-nosed breeds of dogs are more likely to get nasal cancer, while shorter or medium nosed dogs had higher rates for lung cancer.
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. This results in more carcinogens reaching the lungs,” she said.
MacAllister added that pet birds also are victims of secondhand smoke, as a bird’s respiratory system is hypersensitive to any type of pollutant in the air. She said the most serious consequences of secondhand smoke exposure in birds are pneumonia or lung cancer, while other health risks include eye, skin, heart and fertility problems.
“Curious pets can eat cigarettes and other tobacco products if the products aren’t stored properly. When ingested, this can cause nicotine poisoning, which can be fatal,” MacAllister said.
“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.