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Smoking Pets

by Dr Alex Melrose on 2013-07-17 09:58:08


At VetCare we often see smelly animals. Stinky dog fur or smelly cat breath doesn’t bother us, we’re used to it, all part of the job. The one smell we all agree that we find distressing is the smell of cigarette smoke stuck to the fur of our lovely patients. Unfortunately we do see it a lot and we do see a lot of smoking related illness in our patients .

It’s no secret that smoking has extremely detrimental effects to not only the smoker, but to those around the smoker too. Most considerate smokers will avoid smoking around others, particularly children and babies, but for some reason we see a vast number of people still smoking around their pets. Lighting up with their dogs in the car, or inside their homes with the cats around, doesn’t seem to concern some people. But unfortunately for our passive smoking pets, the health side effects are just as serious for them, as they are for us people.

Aside from the obvious breathing difficulties associated with passive smoking, our pets, in particular our cats are more susceptible to problems associated with their grooming habits.Cats, being fastidious groomers, actually lick the carcinogens that settle on their fur and body ( imagine licking all of the poisons in cigarette smoke ..... formaldehyde, anyone? ). Due to close contact with and ingestion of these nasty toxins, passive smoking cats are more prone to cancers of the mouth , squamous cell carcinomas. This is a malignant and fast growing form of cancer.

The other fairly common form of cancer that feline passive smokers are prone to is malignant lymphoma. Non smoking cats do get lymphoma, however research shows cats living with smokers are 2.5 times more likely to get lymphoma, which kills 75% of cats diagnosed within only a year of diagnosis.

Cats regularly exposed to cigarette smoke can also suffer from lung disease, eye irritations, depression, hyperventilating, coughing and wheezing.

Like cats, Dogs will lick carcinogens from cigarette smoke that has settled on their fur and are also prone to the same lung, eye and depression problems. They are also prone to cancers of the nose and sinus area. This tends to affect the long nosed breeds more ( eg huskies and collies ) simply due to the larger surface area that is exposed to the carcinogens.

Unfortunately dogs affected by these cancers typically only survive for less than a year after diagnosis. Shorter nosed breeds ( brachycephalics like Pugs and griffins ) tend to be affected more by the actual breathing in of the smoke and are more prone to lung disease and cancer. Not having long noses, means the carcinogens are not filtered as well and they tend to suffer more of the problems the smoker themselves would suffer from.

The perfect solution in an idea world would be to stop smoking altogether. But that is not always possible. So what’s the solution?

I suppose it’s easy to forget that your dog or cat is around if you are a regular smoker. But try to think of them the way you would with a child.....Don’t smoke in the car or your house, if they are sitting next to you – Don’t light up. Our fur babies, don’t get to make the same informed choices as we do. So as their protectors and friends, it’s our responsibility to make those decisions for them and do our best to keep them safe. Please don’t let your best friends passive smoke – they will thank you for it!

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