You probably already know the range of health problems associated with smoking cigarettes: The nicotine and tar can cause cancer, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and heart disease. Smoking can even affect your DNA!
But, did you know that cigarette smoke circulating inside a home can also have harmful effects on the pets who live there?
Several studies have examined exactly how cigarette smoke can impact our pets. According to experts at Oklahoma State University, research shows that secondhand smoke has been associated with oral cancer and lymphoma in cats, lung and nasal cancer in dogs and lung cancer in birds, as well as other problems.
One study from Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine showed a strong correlation between secondhand smoke and mouth cancer in cats. The grooming habits of cats makes them susceptible to secondhand smoke because they are constantly licking themselves, which exposes the mucous membranes of their open mouths to cancer-causing carcinogens, explained one veterinarian in the study.
As for dogs, research from Colorado State University showed higher incidences of nasal tumors in dogs that live in a home where secondhand smoke is present, compared to dogs living in smoke-free environments. The nose-cancer risk was found to be higher among dogs with longer noses. Short and medium-nosed dogs had higher rates of lung cancer because the smoke passed more quickly through their nasal passages and directly into their lungs.
Pet birds are also affected by secondhand smoke because their respiratory system is especially sensitive to pollutants in the air, which can cause pneumonia or lung cancer, as well as health problems affecting their eyes and heart.
Because of the various risks cigarettes can pose to pets, the public health charity The Legacy Foundation has encouraged smokers to quit for the sake of their pet’s health and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has urged people to have smoke-free homes if they own animals.
And this information isn’t exactly new—research on this topic has been published since at least 2007—but it seems pet owners who smoke still don’t realize the threat their habit poses to their furry friends.
Making smokers aware of how the habit can harm their pets could be just the nudge they need to quit smoking. Nearly 30 percent of smokers who participated in an online survey conducted by the Henry Ford Health System said learning secondhand smoke was bad for their pets health would motivate them to drop the habit.