Secondhand smoke not only harms people who live with a smoker, but it also can kill pets. According to a recent study conducted by Colorado State University, Tufts University’s School of Veterinary Medicine in Massachusetts, and several other schools, dogs can develop both nasal and lung cancer from breathing in cigarette smoke. Cats suffer from malignant lymphoma and allergies, and both dogs and cats experience respiratory problems.
Shirley Worthington, 52, and was a pet owner and a smoker. Worthington has smoked since she was a teenager, and had always smoked around her dog, Tigger, a Bichon Frise. Worthington took Tigger to the vet when she noticed that the dog’s mouth was bleeding. The vet told her that Tigger had cancer, and Worthington said she knew immediately it was from her addiction to smoking.
Tigger died from the cancer when he was only eight years old. Worthington, along with her sister and mother, quit smoking later that year, in honor of Tigger. Even though Worthington’s mother quit smoking, she also died a few years later from cancer. Worthington says, “Smoking took my mother, and they took my dog.”
The surgeon general reported in 2006 that secondhand smoke is harmful to pets, and puts them at risk of dying. The Legacy Foundation, which is the largest nonprofit public health charity, urges smokers to quit smoking, if not for their own health, then for the sake of their pets, who can’t protect themselves.
Cats are even more sensitive to tobacco smoke than dogs. The leading cause of feline death is lymphoma. Research shows that repeated exposure to tobacco smoke doubles a cat’s chance of getting cancer. If the cat lives with a smoker for five years or more, the risk doubles again. Cats can also develop mouth cancer, which is fatal.
Some symptoms of pets that are suffering from secondhand smoke are: trouble eating, trouble breathing, coughing, vomiting, weight loss, bleeding, sneezing, and nasal discharge.
Morris Animal Foundation, located in Denver, CO, has funded pet cancer research since 1962. According to their research, cancer kills more cats and dogs than any other disease. Also dangerous to pets is the electronic cigarettes. Pets can get into the trash and eat the nicotine cartridges, which causes even more harm to their delicate systems.
Dr. Liz Rozanski, from Tufts College, focuses her research on small animal’s respiratory systems. Rozanski says more research must be done in order to confirm, with 100 percent accuracy, that a pet’s cancer was caused by secondhand smoke and nothing else. Tobacco companies acknowledge the risk and harm of secondhand smoke to people, but have not addressed the harm it can cause the pets of smokers.
Currently, it is unknown how many pets are killed each year from secondhand smoke, or tobacco exposure. However, vets are able to see from various lab tests and office visits, that pets that inhale smoke have inflammations, allergies, pulmonary cancer, and nasal cancer. For this reason alone, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals urges pet owners to make their homes smoke free.
By Sara Petersen