If you are a smoker, you’re fully aware of the dangers that tobacco poses to your health, and the health of those around you. But did you ever stop to consider what your tobacco usage could be doing to your pets? One of the most important elements of good pet care is managing all the environmental factors that can impact your pet, including the plants you keep in your house, foods you allow your pets access to, and the secondhand or thirdhand smoke to which they are exposed.
Understanding Secondhand and Thirdhand Smoke
While it may feel like the only person you’re impacting with your smoking is yourself, that belief is far from true. Wherever you are, your pets like to be, so their exposure to secondhand smoke is increased the more time they spend with you and your smoking habit.
Sure, it’s polite to take your smoking outdoors or to smoke in a room that’s different from the company you keep, but it’s not a solution to secondhand smoke. The smoke attaches itself to your hair and clothing, creating toxins named as thirdhand smoke. Generally speaking, thirdhand smoke is the residual nicotine and other chemicals that linger on indoor surfaces because of tobacco smoke. When this tobacco residue – found on furniture, carpets, lampshades, blankets, curtains, clothing, human skin, and animal fur – reacts with common indoor pollutants, it can create a toxic mix that can be harmful to humans and pets.
The Dangers of Secondhand Smoke
Secondhand smoke is also called Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS), and this carcinogen can seriously and negatively impact the health of your pets. Over 4,000 chemicals are found in secondhand smoke, including carbon monoxide, benzene, formaldehyde, arsenic, nickel, and chromium.
Pets who are exposed to environmental tobacco have elevated risks of respiratory infection and cancer, very similar to the effects of secondhand smoke on a human. This exposure can also create allergies, skin infections, and eye diseases, as well as cancer and respiratory infections, in not only dogs and cats but also rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, fish, and amphibians.
Dogs and Secondhand Smoke
When dogs are exposed to environmental tobacco, it can increase their chances of developing nasal cancer, lung cancer, asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, and allergic skin disease. The type of dog exposed to the smoke will impact what kind of health problem they may develop. Long-muzzled dogs, such as collies, are more susceptible to nasal cancer since they have a larger surface area for toxins to accumulate. Short-muzzle breeds, like pugs or bulldog, are more likely to develop respiratory diseases or lung cancer.
Cats and Secondhand Smoke
Secondhand and thirdhand smoke can put cats at a higher risk for developing oral cancer or malignant lymphoma. Not only are cats absorbing smoke through their mouths and nasal passages, the smoke can settle on their fur. When they lick themselves for grooming the residue will be ingested that way too.
Change Your Habits for Your Pet
If you’re attempting to give up smoking, or if you just can’t quit, at least do whatever you can to reduce your pet’s exposure to the toxins. Smoke away from your pet. Wash your hands thoroughly after smoking (and wash your pet more often too) and before you hold or stroke your pet. Use an air filter in your home. And change your clothes before snuggling up with your bet so they don’t inhale thirdhand smoke. If you’re going to take the time to fit in a smoke, take the time to make sure your pet care includes protecting your animal from environmental dangers.
Concerned that your pet may be suffering symptoms of secondhand smoke or thirdhand smoke? Visit the Northpointe Veterinary Hospital, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for fast and comprehensive care.