Secondhand smoke affects pets

Howard Baker - RN BSN

I do not have a vivid memory of my grandmother without a nasal cannula delivering oxygen to help her breathe. My grandmother smoked for a short time during her teenage years before the risk and dangers of cigarette smoking were well-known. In my grandmother’s case she developed emphysema a disease that eventually caused her slow debilitating death. The memories of my grandmother with her oxygen tanks and tubing struggling for every breath she took affected me in a significant way. I never considered smoking and avoided secondhand smoke whenever possible.

Working with pulmonary patient populations I witness the devastation smoking has on patients and their families. My grandfather had black lung and my grandmother emphysema. I lived the devastation lung disease can bring to individuals and their families. Most people who smoke know and understand how devastating the habit is to their own health—but do they realize the harmful effects secondhand and third-hand smoke has on children and pets.

Secondhand smoke is smoke that lingers in the air and your pet inhales the smoke. Third-hand smoke is the residue of harmful nicotine left on skin, clothes, furniture, carpets, and other surfaces in the environment or habitat of the smoker. The smoke residue is easily transferred to your pet by licking their fur and paws. Airborne smoke and the nicotine residue left behind expose your pets to twice the risk? Facts about Pets and Smoking:

• The length of a dog’s nose and how smoke affects their health. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the nose works as a filter and the longer the nose the more particles filtered out. Sounds good right? Not so fast—longer noses filter more particles decreasing the affect smoke has on the lungs but doubles the risk of nose cancer. Therefore, shorter nosed breeds like Pugs, Bulldogs, and Beagles have a higher risk of lung cancer.

• Cats are creatures of constant grooming. Third-hand smoke attaches to their fur, flooring, furniture, and their environment. According to the FDA, cats living in households with smokers are up to four times more likely to develop an aggressive type of oral cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. Studies have shown even with aggressive treatment options cats that develop oral squamous cell carcinoma less than 10% survive one year after diagnosis.

Visit the Food and Drug Administration’s website for more information on how cigarette smoking affects other pets such as birds, fish, and guinea pigs.

I learned at an early age that cigarette smoking affects the smoker and their family. I was robbed of excursions my grandmother would have loved to have taken. Don’t rob yourself of all life has to offer you and your family. Stop smoking if not for yourself—for the pet who counts on you to protect and do what is best for them.

Resources:; Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Tobacco Quitline: 1-800-QUIT-NOW;;; and

Life is better with a dog — woolf!

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Howard Baker



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