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Secondhand smoke

Secondhand Smoke Poses Health Hazard to Pets

Monday, February 25, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: secondhand smoke, pet health, health news

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(NewsTarget) Living with a smoker places companion animals of many species at increase risk for a variety of cancers and other health problems, many of which are fatal, according to a press release issued by Oklahoma State University.

"There have been a number of scientific papers recently that have reported the significant health threat secondhand smoke poses to pets," said Dr. Carolynn MacAllister, a cooperative extension service veterinarian at Oklahoma State University.

The press release cited a 1998 Colorado State University study, which demonstrated that a dog exposed to secondhand smoke at home is 1.6 times more likely to acquire lung cancer than a dog living in a smoke-free environment. Short-nosed dogs are particularly susceptible.

Because long-nosed dogs have a greater nasal surface area, carcinogens build up in these dogs' nasal mucous membranes, with fewer reaching the lungs -- so these dogs tend to develop nasal cancer instead. Dogs with nasal cancer rarely survive for more than a year.

Birds living around smokers are more likely to develop lung cancer and pneumonia, as well as problems with their eyes, hearts, skins and reproductive systems.

McAllister also cited a recent Tufts University study, which showed higher rates of oral cancer in cats that lived with smokers, and even higher rates among those that had lived with a smoker for five years or longer.

"Cats constantly lick themselves while grooming, therefore they lick up the cancer-causing carcinogens that accumulate on their fur. This grooming behavior exposes the mucous membrane of their mouth to the cancer-causing carcinogens," McAllister said.

Cats in smoking households were also twice as likely to suffer from malignant lymphoma, which kills 75 percent of them within a year.

Finally, pets can eat tobacco products that are left lying around the house, which can lead to nicotine poisoning.

McAllister urged pet owners to quit smoking, or at least to designate a smoking area in their home that pets are kept out of, and to make sure that all tobacco products are kept locked away and inaccessible to companion animals.

"It's clear that people who smoke are not just killing themselves, they're also killing their own pets and children," added consumer health advocate Mike Adams. "While I believe in personal liberties and the right for individuals to decide whether they wish to smoke, I believe it is a form of abuse to subject either children or pets to secondhand cigarette smoke," Adams said.

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