According to a study done at Tufts University’s School of Veterinary Medicine in Massachusetts, Colorado State University and other schools, secondhand smoke can cause lung and nasal cancer in dogs, malignant lymphoma in cats and allergy and respiratory problems in both animals. Why is anyone surprised?
There are no numbers available indicating the exact number of pets that die each year from tobacco exposure, but veterinarians know from lab tests and office visits that inhaling smoke causes allergic reactions, inflammation and nasal and pulmonary cancers in pets, said Dr. Kerri Marshall, chief veterinary officer for Trupanion pet insurance.
Although pets are not mentioned in this year’s surgeon general’s report, the 2006 report said secondhand smoke puts animals at risk. The nation’s largest nonprofit public health charity, the Legacy Foundation, encouraged smokers to quit for the sake of their pets. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals urged making homes with pets smoke-free.
It is more important to safeguard cats than dogs because cats are particularly susceptible to tobacco smoke. In fact, lymphoma is one of the leading causes of feline death. The research done at Tufts revealed that repeated exposure to smoke doubled a cat’s chances of getting the cancer and living with a smoker for more than five years increased that risk fourfold. It can also cause a fatal mouth cancer.
While tobacco companies have acknowledged the risks of smoking in people, they have not taken the same stance with cats and dogs. The Philip Morris USA website states that it believes cigarettes cause diseases and aggravates others in non-smokers and that the problems warrant warnings.
But “we haven’t taken a stand on the potential impact on pets,” said David Sylvia, a spokesman for Altria Group, Inc., the parent company of Philip Morris.
Even electronic cigarettes have raised questions about their impacts on pets. The greatest danger is the trash, where dogs can find nicotine cartridges from e-cigarettes, said Liz Rozanski, the Tufts veterinarian.
“You wouldn’t think dogs would eat such things, but they do,” she said.