Despite the technological progress and the popularity of electronic vaporizers, smoking remains the most common harmful habit in the US. Even though the rates are lower than ever these days, this phenomenon still encompasses more than 30 million adults in the US. And that’s a huge number.
And while people are able to make a conscious choice whether to smoke or not, their pets don’t have such freedom. When the owner smokes, the pet automatically becomes a secondhand smoker too. But what does this result in? Can our pets be affected by the smoke? And what happens to them when living with a smoking owner?
That’s what we are going to find out today. Let’s see how your smoking habit may influence your pet and their well-being.
What Do We Know About Secondhand Smoke and Why Is It Harmful?
Around 16% of the American population are smokers. Obviously, these people affect the people around them when producing cigarette smoke. But what exactly do we know about secondhand smoke? Is it dangerous for people? If yes, can it be harmful to pets as well?
It is known that smoking is the number one cause of cancer. Scientists link this habit to such cancer types as lung, breast, stomach, brain, throat, lymphoma, liver, leukemia, and others.
Tobacco smoke also affects the heart and blood vessels, which can lead to strokes and other severe health conditions. And while the influence of smoking is already known, the way secondhand smoke affects people is still being thoroughly studied.
Scientists claim that this kind of smoke is just as dangerous. It has been stated that secondhand smoke can cause cardiovascular disease and increase the risk of heart attack. It can also trigger lung cancer. When being exposed to secondhand smoke for long periods of time, one can experience increased or irregular heartbeat, which, again, can lead to a heart attack and other heart conditions. Eye and nasal irritations are possible as well, just like becoming too perceptive to respiratory infections. Asthma is also common for both smokers and people who are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke.
Secondhand smoke can be divided into two categories: side stream (which comes directly from the burning cigarette) and mainstream smoke (which the smoker inhales and then exhales into the air around him or her)
But what exactly makes cigarette smoke so harmful? The answer is hidden in its chemical compounds. While one average cigarette may contain around 600 different ingredients, it releases more than 7,000 chemicals into the air (and smoker’s lungs, obviously) when those ingredients burn. Some of them include:
- hydrogen cyanide;
Now, you may be wondering, “Even though those chemicals are harmful, don’t they disappear after a smoker inhales them?” No, they don’t. In fact, these chemicals are known to build up wherever they are released. This is what we call thirdhand smoke. It can remain in a room, a car, or any other place for months even after no one smokes in those places. Some of those chemicals settle down and are later released back into the air. Others stick to various surfaces because of their nature (they can be oily, waxy, or sticky). That’s why we can always feel that characteristic smell in places where someone smokes regularly.
So, because those compounds remain even after smoking, secondhand and thirdhand smoke is dangerous for all: smokers, non-smokers, their pets, kids, etc. They can inhale the released chemicals, transfer them from their fingers into their mouth by touching certain surfaces, absorb them through the skin, or inhale them with the house dust.
And when it comes to pets, they are probably in a bigger danger than humans. Why, you may ask? Because the harmful chemicals from cigarette smoke tend to stick to carpets, rugs, and floor dust the most. And we know that pets are usually the closest to those surfaces. Additionally, because our pets groom themselves, they can ingest the cigarette chemical compounds, which only increases the risk of them developing different health conditions because of those chemicals.
Even though scientists keep studying the effects of smoke on pets, we already have enough information and research to say:
Secondhand and thirdhand smoke is dangerous for our pets.
But how does this affect different furry friends? Let’s look at the most common examples.
How Smoking Affects Cats
If you are wondering “What can smoking do to my cat?”, there is no simple answer. First of all, the list of possible second- and thirdhand smoke effects is rather long. Additionally, the potential dangers will depend on each individual case. However, we can look at the general and the most common effects to at least see the potential harm you can do to your cat by smoking.
The smoke that comes directly from the cigarette is actually more harmful. Why? Because it does not go through the filter, unlike the inhaled and exhaled smoke
Now, while cats can breathe in secondhand smoke when you are smoking in the house, they are also in danger because of their grooming habits. You see, cats are very careful groomers. They take care of their fur and groom themselves very often. Since the harmful smoke particles can fall and linger on their fur, cats can ingest those particles when grooming.
Research shows that cats living in smoking households are at higher risk of lymphoma. Additionally, they can develop mouth cancer (which is called oral squamous cell carcinoma). If your cat has asthma, bronchitis, or any other respiratory condition, living with a smoker can drastically worsen the symptoms.
These are the most common dangers your furry little friend can face if you are a smoker. To minimize the danger, you can at least smoke outside. However, keep in mind that your clothes will collect the smoke particles anyway, which means there’s still a chance of your cat contacting with those harmful particles.
How Smoking Affects Dogs
Dogs are our best friends and we love them dearly. No wonder there are so many dogs in the US in so many households.
But living with dogs means that we (and our lifestyles) have an influence on them. And when it comes to smoking, the influence is not positive at all. Just like cats, dogs groom themselves, which means they can ingest the chemical particles lingering on their fur. They can also inhale the smoke from cigarettes and the thirdhand residue, which is often mixed with house dust or presented in a form of gas.
It gets worse:
Because dogs are always close to the ground, they are very predisposed to contact with the chemicals accumulated on carpets, rugs, and on the floor.
What can this result in? Many complications, to be honest. Now, the ways cigarette smoke affects dogs is pretty much the same as humans. Second- and thirdhand smoke can cause cancer in dogs that live in a smoking household. Additionally, if your dog already has any lung or breathing issues, secondhand smoke can enhance those conditions and worsen the symptoms.
While we cannot predict how each dog will be influenced by second- and thirdhand smoke in each separate scenario, we are well aware of the risks. For instance, breeds with longer noses are more likely to get nose cancer from the cigarette chemicals. How? You see, a dog’s nose (just like humans’) works as a filter. It filters the air and catches all the nasty particles, not letting them go further into the lungs. And the longer the nose, the more of those particles it will accumulate. Unfortunately, that can result in nose cancer.
Nicotine poisoning is a serious issue that many pet owners need to be very careful with. Pets can chew on nicotine e-liquids or cigarette buds (or whole cigarettes). Even small nicotine doses can kill pets, depending on their size and health condition. Therefore, it is extremely important to keep any nicotine-containing substances and products away from your pets, somewhere where they simply cannot reach
Now, as for short- and medium-nosed dogs, they aren’t in luck either. Because their short noses cannot properly filter the cigarette smoke chemicals, they are more likely to get lung cancer. You see, when the nose does not stop all those particles, they end up in the lungs. And that’s why cancer may develop.
This means second- and thirdhand smoke is dangerous for all dogs, no matter what breed we are talking about.
How Smoking Affects Fish
Did you know that there are more fish in the US than dogs or cats? And yes, they are too affected by their owners smoking, despite living in a tank and not being able to inhale the secondhand smoke.
You may be wondering “How can smoking harm my fish?” Well, you should know that nicotine is extremely toxic to fish. And because its particles are able to build up on different surfaces in your home, they can easily get into the tank.
It gets worse:
Nicotine easily dissolves in water, which means it can just as easily penetrate the living environment of your fish. This may result in different health conditions, starting from muscle spasms, loss of color, rigid fins, and even the premature death of the fish.
With time, smoke particles tend to build up in the places where a person smokes. All those particles result in a specific, noticeable smell, which lingers even when no one has been smoking there in a while. We call those particles thirdhand smoke. Just like secondhand smoke, they can affect both people and pets that come in contact with them
How Smoking Affects Birds
Birds, just like other pets, are not protected from the second- and thirdhand smoke. First of all, they groom themselves just like cats and dogs do. But instead of licking, they use their beaks to clean the feathers and get rid of all the particles on them. And when living in a smoking household, birds can easily ingest nicotine and other chemicals from cigarette smoke.
Additionally, birds are very sensitive to air pollution. They don’t have an effective nose “filtration” system (like dogs do, for example) and get affected by the particles in the air to an even bigger extent. Additionally, birds can absorb the chemicals through their feet when being in contact with smoker’s hands or clothes.
Now, this can result in a spectrum of conditions, each of which will depend on a particular case. The most common health issues include allergies, lung cancer, heart issues, pneumonia, feather plucking syndrome, respiratory problems, skin irritation and abnormalities, eye issues, and even fertility problems.
Some of the previously mentioned conditions can cause death. To prevent them, you need to move your pet bird to a smoke-free area.
How Smoking Affects Hamsters and Guinea Pigs
Oftentimes being called “pocket pets”, hamsters and guinea pigs are small, sweet, and helpless when it comes to living in a smoking household. These little creatures might not be right next to you when you smoke, but they can still be affected by the second- and thirdhand smoke and the lingering chemical particles.
Now, because of their size, hamsters and guinea pigs are affected by cigarette “residue” to a bigger extent. You see, their bodies don’t have to accumulate too much of the chemicals to get influenced by them due to their small size.
This results in many potential health risks. Guinea pigs and hamsters that live in a smoking environment can suffer from emphysema, high blood pressure, and weight gain problems. Scientists believe that there are more potential risks, but the “pocket pets” and the effect of smoke on them haven’t been studied enough (yet) to provide more information on the matter.
However, there’s one thing we are sure of: you should never smoke around your pets.
While thirdhand smoke is dangerous because of its effect on pets and people, it also poses a threat because of how hard it can be to get rid of it. You see, the huge part of those chemicals turn into gas or oily (sometimes waxy) substances. And they are really hard to clean!
How Vaping Affects Pets
Now, with the growing popularity of electronic cigarettes and vaporizers, it is natural that people substitute smoking with them. But how dangerous is this nicotine intake method for your pets? Is vaping more “merciful” than smoking?
Sadly, we cannot know for sure. Because vaping is a relatively young phenomenon, it hasn’t been studied well enough yet. At least we cannot be sure of the vapor’s effect on our pets. However, vaping can be really dangerous if your pet ingests the e-liquid or tries to bite on (or play with) your vaping device. Therefore, it is crucial to keep your vaporizer and the accessories far away from your pet’s reach.
Another thing scientists agree on is that if you are vaping on a nicotine e-juice, the particles of this substance may also build up in your home. Of course, the number of chemical compounds would be fewer than when smoking regular cigarettes. Still, we can’t be sure that vaping is safe for your pets. Therefore, try to vape away from your furry friends. Perhaps you could get a habit of vaping outside, just to be safe.
What pets do you have and are you willing to change some of your habits for their safety? Share your thoughts in the comments!