By Ann Hohenhaus, DVM, DACVIM
Thursday, November 17 marks this year’s Great American Smokeout. Since 1997, this event has been sponsored by the American Cancer Society to encourage Americans to stop smoking. Reducing illness, disability and death related to tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure is one of the objectives of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. According to the CDC, an estimated 46.6 million Americans were smokers in 2009.
This number represents 20% of the United States population. I think everyone would agree that eliminating smoking in the United States is a worthy goal since tobacco-related illness is the cause of 443,000 deaths annually in the USA. Not accounted for in these statistics are those family members affected by second-hand smoke: adult non-smokers, children and, yes, the family pets.
Pets suffer from second-hand smoke
Studies from the United States, Brazil and Scotland demonstrate the impact of smoking on pets worldwide. Dogs and cats absorb measurable amounts of nicotine metabolites into their bodies when they live in a home with smokers. The more smokers and smoking in the household, the higher the levels of nicotine metabolites found in the family pets. Not only can the metabolites be measured, but if the lungs themselves are tested, deposition of carbon material, a byproduct of smoking, can bee seen.
Increased disease risk
Research has shown disease occurs in pets as a result of their exposure to tobacco smoke.
A recent study of dogs with a cough lasting greater than two months suggests dogs living in a household with a smoker are more likely to have a cough, but further research is necessary. Oral squamous cell carcinoma, a deadly tumor in the cat, has been associated with exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.
The most common tumor in cats is lymphoma and the risk of developing lymphoma is tripled in cats living in a smoking household.
I hope I have convinced you to quit smoking today, and keep your whole family healthy. Remember, the Great American Smokeout is for pets too!