Those of you who follow me are pretty health savvy when it comes to knowing and controlling your heart risk factors. You know what a potent and toxic risk factor smoking is for the heart, but you may have friends and family members who you worry about as they continue to puff away. You know that’s not the way to a healthy heart, not to mention healthy lungs. While my wife Jan and I were in Vermont, I happened to pick up a pamphlet distributed by the Vermont QuitLine that may help you get through to someone you know who’s still smoking.
The handout is entitled “Secondhand Smoke and Your Pets,” written by Mardi Richmond and published by California-based Journeyworks Publishing. Even I was astounded at the message in the brochure. As a longtime pet owner, I just hadn’t given much thought to what second hand smoke could do to them.
Nicotine poisoning is toxic. According to this literature, cats living with smoking owners have double the rate of feline leukemia, more breathing problems like asthma, and higher rates of oral cancers (when cats lick their smoke-laden fur, grooming themselves delivers toxins to the mouth). Dogs cohabitating with smokers are at risk for lung and nasal cancers. Short-nosed dogs, like boxers, face higher chances of developing lung cancer, whereas longer-nosed canines like greyhounds are at higher risk of nasal cancers.
The nicotine and other chemicals found in cigarette butts, cigars, nicotine patches and gums, and smokeless tobacco are downright lethal for pets. Playful kittens and puppies must be watched carefully around these products. Ingesting any of these almost always guarantees an emergency trip to the vet.
Even hamsters and other rodents have higher rates of cancer from breathing tobacco smoke at home, because secondhand smoke has many of the toxic, carcinogenic chemicals and compounds that’s in firsthand smoke.
The take-home message: many people, even smokers, worry more about their pets than they do themselves. In fact, they often take better care of their pets than they do themselves! So, if you want to try to help a smoking pet owner quit the habit, share this news with them.
Now it's your turn: Do you know of pets that are exposed to secondhand smoke?