SPCA New Zealand

Protecting pets from second-hand smoke

30 May 2019
Protecting pets from second-hand smoke

SPCA Chief Scientific Officer Dr Arnja Dale says people might not realise smoking can cause serious harm to pets. It has been proven that second-hand smoke increases health risks to pets and has been associated with cancers and respiratory infections, similar to the effect on humans.

Studies have shown that exposure to tobacco and second-hand smoke has been associated with certain cancers in dogs and cats, as well as eye, skin and respiratory diseases in birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, lizards and amphibians. It has also been proven to affect fish as the pollutants from smoke are absorbed into their water and can harm the fish.

The increase in the popularity of vaping has introduced new risks which pet owners may not be aware of. Ingestion of even small amounts of nicotine can result in nicotine poisoning. Nicotine poisoning is of particular concern with the liquid nicotine used in vapes as it is absorbed faster, the nicotine concentration may be higher than traditional cigarettes, and many use flavoured nicotine which makes them more appealing, particularly to dogs. If you do vape, make sure you keep the device and liquid nicotine in a safe place, out of reach of your pet.

“If you are still working through the process of quitting, don’t smoke around your pets, inside or outside. Keep both your home and car smokefree to reduce the risk of cancers and serious smoke-related health problems for your family and pets,” says Dr Dale.

Effects of second-hand smoke on cats:

Cats lick themselves when grooming and this causes them to ingest dangerous carcinogens from smoke that are absorbed by their fur. Cats in households with second-hand smoke exposure are almost 2.5 times more likely to develop malignant lymphoma as cats with no exposure. The risk increases to 3.2 times more likely in cats exposed for five or more years.

Effects of second-hand smoke on dogs:

Dogs exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to suffer from a range of diseases, including nasal cancer, lung cancer, asthma and bronchitis, than non-exposed dogs. The shape of a dog’s head plays a role in the types of cancer most likely to develop. Long-muzzled dogs, such as collies, are 250 per cent more likely to develop nasal cancer, since their nasal passages have more surface area on which the toxins can accumulate. Breeds with short muzzles are more likely to develop lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.

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