Smoking is bad for us. And it’s bad for the people around us. The only people that have ever debated that – are smokers themselves.
So picture this: you and your best friend are sitting around, doing what you do best (relaxing), enjoying a chat. You’re telling him about your day, what you did and where you went, and he is sitting there very patiently listening to your stories, giving you 100% of his attention.
Without taking a second minute to think, you light up a cigarette. You’d offer him one but he’d only look at you with a blank stare, so you just take the first drag of yours and continue on the conversation. Smoke begins to waft in his direction, but he doesn’t complain. In fact, he seems to move closer to you, intent on hearing the end of your story. After you finish your smoke, you throw your cigarette butt on the ground, stamp it out, and walk away – without a second thought, with your best mate walking beside you.
Sometimes when we smoke (I’ve been there myself in the past, and I’m often around others who still smoke today), we are so used to the habit ourselves that we don’t consider the harm lighting up can do to others. And when we talk about your best mate, you are probably more likely to consider them if they are sitting right beside – and they look the same; but what about your pets? What about your pet dog, who follows you around so diligently, who listens to your stories and never complains?
Have you ever considered what harm your smoking could be doing to him? Or your cat, your hamster, your rabbit, your pet tiger (maybe not a tiger, but you get the picture).
We’ve all seen the research and we know smoking is bad for us, second hand smoke is bad for our friends, family, children. But, did you stop to consider that second hand smoke is actually just as dangerous for our four-legged friends?
In 2012, there was a report published that showed a cat had started developing tracheal carcinoma (tumors in the windpipe) after being exposed to second hand smoke in its home. We’re not talking about one cigarette though, we’re talking about many cigarettes, over a long period of time – just as it would affect humans. In fact, there are other studies that have found animals to be sick with fibrosis, scarring of the lung tissue, precancerous lesions, asthma and bronchitis – all thanks to second hand smoke. Cats in particular are highly susceptible, and second hand smoke could double the risk of your cat developing lymphoma (according to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology); while animals who already suffer from allergic lung disease will often suffer worse symptoms if people smoke around them.
According to research, for dogs it is the length of their muzzle that determines their susceptibility to second hand smoke and different types of cancers. Dogs with long noses, like the Dachshund, Greyhound and Collie are more likely to develop nose cancers as a result of your smoking; while dogs with shorter noses, like the pug and boxer have more chance of getting lung cancer.
Even birds have been found to develop lung cancer and pneumonia thanks to second hand smoke; and it can cause heart problems in rabbits.
And it’s not just smoke itself that affects our animals. In the comfort of our own home, it’s common to carelessly throw out your cigarette butt. Imagine if you walked outside and saw your 6 month old baby chewing on the butts – you would probably freak out. Ingesting tobacco from your pet isn’t much better and could cause drooling, give them the shakes, or see them with an upset tummy. Cigarette butts still have 25% of the nicotine of the smokes themselves, so just be a bit more mindful the next time you finish your cigarette.
If your pet does eat a cigarette or cigar, most of the time this will induce vomiting. If not, call your local vet for advice on toxicosis as they may need to have their stomach pumped. Signs could include racing heart, constricted pupils, drooling, seizures and vomiting.
Finally, we’ve discussed the harmful effects of third hand smoke previously and how dangerous this can be for our children, and pregnant women. If it is dangerous to them, you can guarantee it is also dangerous to your pets, particularly as they love to lounge around on the carpet, furniture – and on you. Your cat or dog will then ingest any toxins when grooming itself, and over time, this can cause them harm.
So what can you do? The best option for everyone is to quit so give your local healthline a call.
In the meantime, you need to start considering how your bad habit / addiction is affecting your best mate. Make sure you wash your hands after you have a cigarette and before you start to give them cuddles or pats; don’t light up around your pet; smoke outside and dispose of your cigarette butts in the bin. Also, keep your nicotine packets or cigar boxes well out of reach.
Take care of your pet as you would your baby. If you wouldn’t light a cigarette within a metre of your baby, don’t do it in front of your pet. If you would – then you really need to quit ASAP so give your local QUIT line a call.