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While we are all more than aware of the effects smoking has on our own health, as well as that of our loved ones, what you may not know is that passive smoking can also harm pets. So if you are planning to quit smoking as a New Year's resolution, and you are an animal lover, maybe this is the extra incentive you need to kick the habit forever.
In fact, pets are at a greater risk of developing health issues from second-hand smoke than humans. This is because they spend much more time in the home close to carpets as a result of their height. This can be harmful because carcinogenic particles are known to linger in carpets.
So, what effects can smoking have on your pets? Well, recent research has shown that second-hand smoke can lead to the development of conditions such as cancer, cell damage and weight gain.
This theory is backed up by the research of Clare Knottenbelt, a Professor of Small Animal Medicine and Oncology at the University of Glasgow. Her research reveals that dogs living with smokers ingest a large amount of tobacco smoke. After analysing the testicles of these dogs, Professor Knottenbelt and her team discovered a gene that signifies cell damage related to some forms of cancer. They also found that dogs living in a smoking household gained more weight after being neutered than dogs from non-smoking households.
However, it is cats in particular who are at the most risk of suffering health issues as a result of second-hand smoke. This is a result of them ingesting more smoke than dogs, whether they have outdoor access or not. Professor Knottenbelt and her team have suggested that this could be due to the extensive self-grooming that cats partake in. This means that they are ingesting more tobacco toxins via their fur.
Professor Knottenbelt has also stated that she believes pets are "at a greater risk" of inhaling third-hand smoke (smoke lingering in furnishings etc.) than humans. This is due to the pets remaining in the house during the day, whilst children attend school and adults go to work. Their low height may also increase their susceptibility to third-hand smoke (i.e. they are naturally closer to the carpet).
It has been found that smoking outside of the household can reduce the effects mentioned above. However, a study by Victoria Smith MRCVS (who is investigating links between smoking and lymphoma in cats) has found that although the effects are reduced, it doesn't totally eradicate the harm second-hand smoke has on your pets.
In the same study, when pet owners cut down on the amount of tobacco products they smoked in their homes, nicotine levels in their cat's fur significantly reduced. But, levels were still higher than those from cats in non-smoking households.
Therefore, whilst smoking outside and cutting down can help lessen the effects of smoking on your pets, quitting smoking is the best way to not just help your own health, but improve your pet's health too.
So, if one of your New Year's resolutions is to quit smoking, for the sake of your pet, your family and yourself, try and stick with it in 2016.
For more help with quitting smoking, please visit our smoking cessation information page.