Second-Hand Smoke and Pets, Is This Real?


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It’s been a question that’s been debated for some time, whether or not secondhand cigarette smoke is harmful to our pets.

There’s no doubt, since pet parrots are affected as they suffer from any smoke – even if you simply burn your dinner. But what about dogs and cats?

At least one study in pubvet demonstrates the influence of environmental tobacco smoke on the etiology of lymphoma in domestic cats, and noted that inhalation of the smoke isn’t the only issue. Their fur actually gets smokey, and cats naturally groom themselves and therefore the carcinogens are being ingested.

Another study published by British Small Animal Veterinary Association showed that dog hair nicotine concentration appears to be strongly associated with reported exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. The range and median of hair nicotine concentration in dogs exposed to environmental tobacco smoke was like those reported in children. This suggests that dog hair could provide a useful method of determining the amount of environmental tobacco smoke exposure in all environments common to pets and children.

A new study says that contact with cigarette smoke, even if it’s on your clothes after coming from a smoky environment, can damage your dog.

The study, which was led by Purdue University veterinarian Dr. Deborah Knapp, looked at the health and lifestyle factors of 120 Scottish Terriers over the course of three years and found that those exposed to cigarette smoke had a six times higher chance of developing bladder cancer than those that weren’t. The dogs that developed cancer were exposed to a median level of 10 pack-years of smoke, while the ones who did not get the disease were exposed to a median level of 1.5 pack-years of smoke. A pack year is the equivalent of smoking one pack of cigarettes a day per year.

It’s true that Scottish Terriers genetically have a 20 percent higher risk of developing bladder cancer than other breeds. This gave the team a baseline to work from and a particular area of cancer development to focus on.

The researchers say that the findings could help shed light on links between carcinogens and cancers that could also be applicable to humans, making dogs what they call “sentinels for environmental risks to humans.” That’s because, due to their shorter lifespans, dogs develop conditions in relation to stimuli at a quicker rate than humans. For example, carcinogen exposure in humans might take decades to appear as cancer, while in dogs, the same effect can manifest in as little as a year or less.