There could be a silent smoker at home and no, it’s not your rebellious teenager. Smoking is not just harmful to those who indulge but also to anyone standing around the smoker, which is why, you can no longer smoke in public spaces. But few pet owners factor in the risk they are taking by smoking around their furry companions.

The effects of Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) can be as second or as third hand smoke. Second-hand smoke is the whiffs that evade the smoker’s lungs or is exhaled by them. And third-hand smoke includes the minute particles that smoke leaves behind to settle on your clothes and in your hair. If you smoke at home, these particles are likely to settle on the curtains, the carpet, cushions, on your pet’s fur and so on. So not only is your dog inhaling a noxious concoction of carcinogens while you have your ciggy for the day, but it is likely that he/she will continue to inhale/ingest them until the next time you spring-clean to remove the smoke-y smell from your curtains, carpets and cushions.

Cancer and your Companions

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Numerous studies have been conducted that link cancer in pets to the habit of their pet- parents smoking at home.

A 2002 report published by Tufts University states that second hand smoke doubled the risk of lymphoma development in cats (as compared to cats who lived in smoke-free households.) Another report in 2012 published that a house cat developed tracheal carcinoma after being exposed to second hand smoke in large amounts at home.

Professor Knottenbelt (of Small Animal Medicine and Oncology) from the University of Glasgow conducted an investigation into the effects of smoking in 2015 – especially on family pets.

Based on this research, she states that not only do our pets take in much of the smoke but that it also has some very harmful consequences. These include cell damage and increase the risk of cancers (certain types of). An incidental finding was that dogs often display an increase in weight after neutering when they are exposed to these conditions.

Professor Knottenbelt is also of the view that cats are worse affected because third-hand smoke particles settle on their fur, and are then ingested when they groom themselves.

Cats may be more affected than dogs thanks to their extensive grooming rituals

Cats may be more affected than dogs thanks to their extensive grooming rituals

Respiratory Conditions

Many vets also believe that smoking can aggravate non-cancerous problems like asthma and bronchitis. Kicking the butt may mean that the effects of these respiratory illnesses come down. According to Bangalore-based veterinarian Michelle Simoes “You should never be in the same room as your pet when you smoke. We’ve come across cases of Feline Asthma due their owners smoking. It can also cause nausea”.

Does taking it Outside help?

Cats and dogs have noses that are much closer to the ground, and so are more exposed to smoke particles that have settled on carpets and rugs

Cats and dogs have noses that are much closer to the ground, and so are more exposed to smoke particles that have settled on carpets and rugs

While some pet owners are consciously taking their smoking habits outside to the balcony or the garden or cutting down on smoking at home, it may not be enough. Another study took into account the level of nicotine in a pet’s hair when the number of tobacco products smoked at home per day was less than 10. While the level of nicotine in the hair dropped, the level was still higher than the levels present in cats from non-smoking home. This may be because you may still be bringing particles back inside in your hair and on your clothes, which your pet will be exposed to when he/she cuddles up to you.

Victoria Smith, MRCVS (Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) is researching the links between passive smoking in cats and the development of lymphoma. She is of the view that even those cats who have access to the outdoors still manage to take in a great amount of carcinogens.

Would you stub out that cigarette for Fido?

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The most effective way of keeping your pet from passive smoking is to stop smoking altogether. You should also consider making your home a no-smoking zone and prevent guests and other loved ones from smoking in your home. Besides inhaling or ingesting smoke particles, pets could also eat cigarette butts that have not been properly disposed of (or that have been dug out of the trash by a nosey pet). Cigarette butts alone contain 4 to 8 mg of nicotine, for pets, 10 mg/kg of their body weight is potentially fatal. If your pet does ingest a cigarette or you suspect that he/she has, take them to the vet immediately.

Until you make the decision to kick the butt, here are some things that you can do to reduce the load of toxins you are giving your pet:

  • Smoke outdoors, preferably not at home
  • Use a high-quality air purifier indoors, clean curtains, upholstery regularly. Avoid having carpets
  • Wash your hands and your clothing immediately after smoking.
  • Keep ashtrays clean, throw away cigarette butts where a curious pet is not likely to find them.