It is well known that smoking is hazardous to the health of humans. The tobacco and nicotine that compose cigarettes are both known to be harmful. However, many people don’t think about the consequences that cigarettes could pose to their pets. Unfortunately, cigars, cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and vapes can all be dangerous for our pets.
Types of Smoke
The first thing to remember when it comes to exploring the dangers of smoking for pets is that there are different kinds of smoke. Let’s take a look!
- First-hand smoke: Smoke that is inhaled from a burning cigarette, cigar, or pipe by the smoker.
- Second-hand smoke: Smoke that is exhaled from the smoker that contains around 7,000 chemicals. Second-hand smoke pollutes the environment around the smoker.
- Third-hand smoke: Smoke residue that can be found accumulated in toxic particles on furniture, clothing, carpets, and other surfaces near where someone smokes.
Understanding the risks of tobacco exposure to your pet can be complicated. There is a lot to consider. First, the species and breed of the animal can impact the animal’s risk to tobacco and smoke exposure. Additionally, lifestyle habits can have a significant impact. For example, most people let their dogs go outside a few times a day. However, cats are often kept indoors and are exposed to more smoke. Cats also tend to groom themselves meticulously, which can cause them to ingest a lot of third-hand smoke. Another thing to consider is that our pets tend to lie on the floor and furniture in our homes, and their noses and mouths are put directly into the toxic residue on those surfaces. Pets that sit on their owners’ laps can also be at-risk for second-hand smoke exposure.
Although your pet isn’t doing the smoking, the nicotine exposure is hazardous because the body breaks down the substance into a substance called cotinine. Cotinine can be detected in the blood and urine of pets in households with smokers, which is proof that pets are exposed to toxic chemicals when their owners smoke.
Smoke Exposure Risks
Veterinary oncologists are no strangers to the risks that smoking poses toward pets. Cats living in households with smokers are two to four times more likely to contract squamous cell carcinoma, an aggressive form of oral cancer. The increased likelihood for this specific type of cancer occurs because cats ingest numerous toxins and carcinogens as they groom themselves. Additionally, cats that share a home with someone who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day are three times more likely to be diagnosed with a systemic form of cancer called lymphoma. After five or more years of smoke exposure, cats can develop a gene mutation associated with carcinogenic change that is also found in smokers themselves.
The shape of a dog’s head can tell you a lot about their risk of cancer when exposed to smoking. Long-nosed dogs, such as Collies, Greyhounds, and many other breeds, are twice as likely to be diagnosed with nasal and sinus cancer, because their noses work like a filtration system. This means that the carcinogens from second-hand smoke get trapped in the mucus of their noses and can form tumors over time. Short- and medium-nosed breeds, like Pugs, Bulldogs, and Beagles, don’t have the nasal filtration system that long-nosed breeds have. Instead, the carcinogens that are inhaled by these breeds go directly into the lungs, which makes these dogs twice as likely to get lung cancer than compared to the same breeds in non-smoking households.
While cancer is one of the most well-known concerns, it isn’t the only one. Pets that are exposed to smoke have a higher risk of developing pneumonia, asthma, eye infections, allergic skin disease, and damaged blood vessels.
Birds are particularly sensitive to pollutants into the air. When exposed to smoke, birds can develop cancer, respiratory problems, pneumonia, allergies, and skin, heart, and fertility problems.
Smoking in a home with fish is also dangerous. Second- and third-degree smoke is easily absorbed into the water that the fish live in. Over time, the smoke poisons the fish and can cause muscle spasms and rigidity that can lead to movement impairments and body coloration changes.
How Can We Keep Our Pets Safe?
Some smokers vow to only smoke outside of their homes. While this can reduce the risk to your pet some, it doesn’t eliminate the risks. A study performed in 2005 showed that homes of outdoor-only smokers are still five to seven times more contaminated than the homes of non-smokers. This is due to the presences of chemicals and toxins on the smoker in the form of third-hand smoke. Tests have proven that surfaces in a household with an outdoor-smoker may test positive for third-hand smoke even after many months of no smoking and thorough sanitation of the home.
Other smokers use air filters and open the windows while they smoke. These methods are even riskier for your pet than smoking outside. This means that these means are sufficient to reduce the risk of complications for your pet.
Alternative Smoking Products
Many people believe that the newer alternatives to cigarettes and other smoking products are healthier for their pets. However, there haven’t been sufficient studies on e-cigarettes and vapes to prove that this belief is true. Unfortunately, there are no risk-free smoking options when you have pets in your home.
These products still contain nicotine, which makes the risk of nicotine poisoning a problem for pet owners. Additionally, alternative smoking products may contain more nicotine than a regular cigarette, which can actually increase your pet’s risk of nicotine poisoning.
Alternative smoking products can also explode or start fires, which can be incredibly dangerous for pets. Since pets are naturally curious, they are likely to chew on these devices and cause tragic fires.
To truly keep your pet safe from the effects of smoking, it is best to stop smoking altogether. Not only will your pet thank you, but your body will thank you as well. When you quit smoking, you are prolonging both you and your pet’s life, so you can spend more years enjoying life together.