Secondhand smoke harms people and pets - Dr. Marty Becker

Secondhand smoke harms people and pets

Thursday, Jan 21st, 2016 | By Dr. Marty Becker

jack russell dog sleeping under the blanket in bed the bedroom ill sick or tired sheet covering its head

Everyone knows that secondhand smoke can be incredibly damaging to children and anyone who lives with smokers, but it’s important to remember that it affects pets too!

Q: My boyfriend smokes. I know that smoking around pets isn’t good for them, but he says that as long as he doesn’t smoke near them, there won’t be any harmful effect.

A: You are right to be concerned about the effects of secondhand smoke on your pets. There’s a direct link between pets living in a smoking environment and a higher risk of health problems. And your boyfriend is wrong to think that stepping outdoors or into another room is enough to offset the risk.

An ongoing study by the University of Glasgow found that while cats whose owners smoked away from them had a reduced amount of smoke taken into their body, the cats were not altogether protected from exposure. The same study found that a gene that acts as a marker of cell damage was higher in dogs living in smoking homes than those in nonsmoking homes.

Professor Clare Knottenbelt, professor of small animal medicine and oncology at the university’s Small Animal Hospital, says, “Our findings show that exposure to smoke in the home is having a direct impact on pets. It risks ongoing cell damage, increasing weight gain after castration and has previously been shown to increase the risk of certain cancers.”

Cats are especially at risk, possibly because they take in more smoke from grooming themselves. Veterinarian Victoria Smith, who is investigating the links between passive smoking and lymphoma, a cancer of the blood cells in cats, says, “Our work so far has shown that cats take in significant amounts of smoke, and even having outdoor access makes very little difference.”

For his own health and that of your pets, encourage your boyfriend to stop smoking. If he won’t, make a rule that he can’t smoke in or around your home.

All this and more in this week’s Pet Connection!