Smoking BeagleBy now, we all know smoking is bad for us. So is second-hand smoke and even third-hand smoke. But how many people realize how bad it is to smoke around our animal friends?

The June 2010 issue of Cat Watch draws attention to a study by Tufts University that linked second-hand smoke to cancer in cats. Cats exposed to smoking were twice as likely to develop feline lymphoma, which is fatal within a year of diagnosis.

As with humans, the evidence that passive smoke is dangerous to pets is not new. A recent edition of USA Today reported on the efforts of veterinarians, smoking-cessation groups, and animal welfare organizations to warn pet owners of the risks of smoking around their companion animals. According to veterinary oncologist Aarti Sabhlok, who routinely treats 40 or more cancer patients a week, an “animal in an environment with constant exposure to a toxin, and that would include cigarette smoke, could be at greater risk of developing tumors.” Breathe New Hampshire estimates that dogs who inhale second-hand smoke are three times as likely to develop cancer. Other dangers include allergies, respiratory issues, asthma, lung inflammation, and eye problems.

It’s not just the smoke itself that puts animals at risk. Nicotine is quite toxic, and a pet who ingests a stubbed-out cigarette or cigar could die. According to the McLean Animal Hospital, the minimal lethal dose of nicotine in dogs is between 20 to 100 mg. A cigarette can have 10 to 30 mg of nicotine.

Sadly, the ASPCA reports that nearly 30 percent of pets in the U.S. live with at least one smoker. Yet there is a bright side to this troubling statistic: Some smokers are more likely to quit out of concern for their pets. One survey revealed that 37 percent of pet owners said “clear evidence that smoking is harmful to their pets would motivate them to quit or ask the people they live with to quit.” Fourteen percent said such evidence could prompt them to smoke outside.

The Grand Rapids Press tells a touching story of Mary Ellen Ratuszny, a smoker for 30 years. Then she adopted a dog named Chief, who was being treated for heartworm. Second-hand smoke would interfere with his treatment. “The doctor, my father over the years, other people ragging on you to quit smoking, and here I do it for the dog,” said Ratuszny. “The consequences were right there in front of me. I did not want to do anything that was going to jeopardize the health and recovery of this dog.”

Quitting smoking is a good thing to do, no matter what the reason. Quitting smoking out of concern for an animal companion is just another example of how pets can improve our health.

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