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Secondhand Smoke and Pets
Secondhand smoke acts as an irritant, a toxin, and a carcinogen. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, secondhand smoke causes an increased frequency and severity of asthma attacks, ear infections, respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing, wheezing, shortness of breath), respiratory infections (bronchitis and pneumonia) and a greater risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in children; in adults, it also causes heart disease and cancer.
The CDC states: "There is no risk-free level of contact with secondhand smoke; even brief exposure can be harmful to health."
There is every reason to expect that secondhand smoke has similar effects on our pets. For example: Malignant lymphoma is a relatively common type of cancer in cats. A study demonstrated that cats living in the house with a smoker had twice the normal risk of developing the disease. If they lived with the smoker for five years they had three times the risk, and if two people in the house smoked they had four times the risk.
These effects are magnified for some of our pets: pets that live indoors cannot escape the smoke-filled environment for some breaths of fresh air; pets that groom themselves fastidiously, including cats and birds, not only breathe the smoke but also ingest a significant amount of smoke particles from their fur, feathers and skin.
People who smoke indoors are putting their pets at significant risk for problems ranging from asthma to cancer. Our pets are completely dependent upon us for their care. We are responsible for providing their water, food, and shelter. Of equal importance, we are also responsible for providing them with clean air.
Peter Smith, DVM
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