Pet Talk: Second-hand smoke and health of pets

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By Angela Clendenin

We all know that smoking is bad for our health, but what might surprise many pet-owners are the dangerous effects that same smoke can have on their four-legged loved ones after some time.
“There are studies that show that dogs exposed to large amounts of second-hand smoke have significant changes to their lung tissue over time,” Heather Wilson-Robles, assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Science said. “These changes range from fibrosis, or scarring of the lung tissue to precancerous and even cancerous lesions.”
A case report published in 2012 showed a cat developing a tracheal carcinoma after being exposed to large amounts of second-hand smoke in the home, and another study in 2002, published by the group at Tufts University, showed that second hand smoke may double the risk of lymphoma development in cats.
Many veterinarians also feel that symptoms in their patients with respiratory diseases such as asthma, or bronchitis improve if the owner’s quit smoking. For those that do smoke, there are a few ways to tell if your habit is affecting your pet’s health.
“For animals with asthma, allergic lung disease, or bronchitis you might see a dry hacking and progressive cough,” Wilson-Robles said. “Asthma patients may have more frequent asthma attacks and their symptoms may be more difficult to manage medically.
Animals with allergic lung disease will often have more severe symptoms if they live in a smoking household and these symptoms may persist all year round rather than being seasonal.”
Disposing of your tobacco may also prove hazardous to the well being of your pet if they tend to be nosy or like to dig in the trash.
“Ingestion of tobacco products may cause gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, increased salivation and trembling,” Wilson-Robles said. “High doses of nicotine may lead to excitement, constricted pupils, odd behavior, seizures and even death. Cigarette butts are especially dangerous as they contain 25% of the nicotine found in the cigarette.”
While the most efficient way to treat second-hand tobacco problems with a pet is for the owner to quit, there are other ways to keep the pet safe and keep the habit.