We all know the risks of smoking for our own personal health. Did you know how bad second hand smoke is for your pet's health?
This can be a difficult conversation in the veterinary clinic. No one ever wants to be responsible or a contributing factor to their pet's illness. There are plenty of times though that feline asthma, canine bronchitis and some forms of cancer can be directly caused by smoke in the household. This is a subject that must be tactfully brought up. I have had people get very upset and even angry with me for suggesting that limiting the amount of smoke their pet is exposed to could really help or even manage their pet's illness. There has been at least anecdotally, a correlation between lower airway diseases and some forms of cancer and smoke in the household. Squamous cell carcinoma, a particularly nasty form of cancer in cats, can be caused by a cat chronically licking and ingesting cigarette residue from its coat and chronic exposure to a carcinogen. There are plenty of cases of this cancer that are due to other causes as well, but there is a causal linkage in some cases.
A new study at the University of Glasgow has revealed that second hand smoke can be even more risky for our pets. Second hand smoke risker for pets than humans
It also found an increased risk of obesity in pets who live in smoking households. As if people don't already have enough reasons to quit smoking, this is another one, but perhaps a more convincing one for pet owners.
Other items that can irritate your pets respiratory tract include: potpourri, scented candles, irregularly changed air filters, dust and dusty cat litter, perfumes and other aerosols. Having an asthmatic pet myself, I am very aware of how air quality can also change and become worse in the humidity of summer, or if the floors are not vacuumed frequently. These can all be contributing factors to the respiratory health of everyone in the household.
Another thing to be aware of: smoke inhalation. Pets can die from smoke inhalation just like people. Many years ago I had the honor of treating 3 beloved dogs of a public servant and his wife who had a fire at their household over Christmas. Fortunately, after a couple days of hospitalization, oxygen and treatment of eye injuries, they were able to go home for the New Year. It did help that the First Responders knew that there were 3 dogs in the house and they worked to get their colleague's family members out as quickly as they could. (You can only imagine what it looks like to have a fire truck arrive with firefighters in all their fire gear hovering over a small dog with a human oxygen mask). If you don't already have a sticker or sign on one of your windows letting firefighters know how many pets you have, please consider doing this, it could help save their life.