Quitting smoking is at the top of many people's list of New Year's Resolutions. Most people know smoking is harmful for them and the people around them, but did you also know smoking is harming your pets?
The University of Glasgow's Small Animal Hospital has been studying the effects of smoking on cats and dogs. The preliminary results show that smoking in the home where pets live causes cell damage and weight gain. Previous studies have shown that, unsurprisingly, smoking around pets also increase risks for certain cancers.
Here's what you need to know:
Cats are more affected than dogs, even if they spend a good deal of time outdoors. Because cats groom themselves so often, they not only inhale smoke, they also ingest toxins whilst grooming. Researchers at Harvard University have dubbed the particles that cling to smokers' hair/clothes and also animals' fur "third hand smoke".
Cats living with a smoker are two to three times more likely to develop lymphoma, a type of cancer that is typically fatal within one year of diagnosis.
Increased cases of nasal, sinus and lung cancer have been found in dogs who live in a home with a smoker. The risk of cancer of the nasal passages increases by 250% in long-nosed breeds.
The most common way both dogs and cats are harmed by cigarettes actually has nothing to do with smoke. The biggest risk is that your pet will eat cigarette butts or a nicotine replacement patch and develop nicotine poisoning. This is an especially high risk for curious puppies.
Bird's are also at risk - their respiratory systems are hypersensitive. Research has shown exposure to cigarette smoke can cause cancer and pneumonia among other health problems.
Vaping and e-cigarettes have risks of their own - the American Lung Association reports that "the FDA tested a small sample [of e-cigarettes] just a few years ago and found a number of toxic chemicals, including diethylene gylcol — the same ingredient used in antifreeze." Using these devices releases these chemicals in the air and they will settle in pets fur just as cigarette smoke does.
What can you do to reduce the risks for your pet?
Stop smoking. We know this is hard. The NHS Smokefree programme can help.
Ensure anything containing nicotine is 100% out of reach of pets.
Smoke outside as much as possible (away from your pets).
Use a high quality air purifier in your home.
Wash your clothing and hair after smoking or spending time around smokers before giving your pets a cuddle.