We all know the risks that second-hand smoke from cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products hold for people, and it is well publicised and generally understood that smoking around children, particularly in an enclosed space, is a bad thing. However, many pet lovers forget or don’t even realise that second-hand smoke also poses a risk to pets, and can have all of the same health implications and in some cases, more severe ones, that it does for people.
Ironically, since the advent of the ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces such as workplaces and pubs, more people that smoke now smoke indoors within their own homes, and the risk of pets inhaling second-hand smoke has risen exponentially alongside of this.
Read on to learn more about how second-hand smoke affects pets, and how to prevent it.
The term “second-hand smoke” or sometimes “passive smoking” refers to the inhalation of tobacco smoke by a person or animal that is not actively smoking. If you are standing in the presence of someone who is smoking and you can smell their smoke, even if you yourself are not actively smoking, then you are inhaling second-hand smoke, and inhaling all of the health and wellness implications that accompany it. The same is true for pets, and like children and other non-smokers, they are placed at risk of developing health problems or having existing health problems exacerbated by being around smokers.
As all animals breathe, all animals can be affected by second-hand smoke, and suffer from prolonged exposure to it. Animals like cats and dogs that spend the majority of their time around people are the pets most likely to suffer from prolonged and continual exposure to passive smoking if they spend a lot of time around people that smoke in their presence, but it is easy to forget about smaller, less obvious animals that can be affected too.
Small furry pets in cages are very sensitive to being in a room where someone is smoking, as they are delicate animals with fragile respiratory systems. Caged birds are also in danger of passive smoking, particularly as the level at which their cage is situated or where they perch is often high up, and smoke rises.
Even tank and aquarium fish can suffer from the effects of smoke in the atmosphere, as it can introduce toxins into the water in which they live and lead to a failure to thrive.
It is important to apply the same rules to smoking and pets as you would apply to smoking and children; simply, do not smoke around them and particularly not within the home or other enclosed spaces.
Never smoke in a room that your animal is in or that they use regularly, and bear in mind that even going into a different room to smoke might mean that your animal is exposed to second-hand smoke, as houses are not airtight! Go outside to smoke if you must, or better still, do not smoke at all!
Never allow someone else to smoke around your pets, and don’t take your dog into the home of friends who will smoke around them.
Second-hand smoke is pervasive, and with regular, prolonged exposure, can actually cause illnesses and health conditions to arise in otherwise healthy pets. We all know that smoking can cause lung, throat and mouth cancer in people, as well as other problems with the heart and body, and that smoking is one of the main causes of death in the UK. Pets are even more susceptible to smoking-related illnesses than people, as they are smaller and less robust to start with.
Logged cases of smoking-related illnesses caused by passive smoking in pets include tracheal cancers in cats, lymphoma development in cats and dogs, and scarred lung tissue and cancerous and pre-cancerous lung lesions found in animals that were exposed to second-hand smoke, found by post-mortem examination after death.
As well as the serious and life-threatening conditions that can affect pets exposed to passive smoking, many other existing conditions can be triggered or exacerbated in pets exposed to smoke as well.
Asthma is the most obvious of these, and incidences of asthma diagnosis in pets such as cats and dogs are on the increase. Lung conditions and infections such as coughs, colds and bronchitis can all be triggered or exacerbated by passive smoking, and can prove very painful and uncomfortable for your pet, as well as potentially leading to further complications and worsening conditions.
Remember as well that nicotine is harmful to ingest for your pet, so keep your pets away from cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products too.
Smoking-related illnesses and cancers in pets are incredibly painful, expensive to treat, and can dramatically shorten your pet’s lifespan. Fortunately, they are also entirely preventable, simply by ensuring that you do not smoke in the presence of your pet, nor allow your pet to go anywhere smoky, and keep your pet away from smokers.
Be a responsible pet owner; people who really love their pets will keep them away from second-hand smoke.