A community health department educator and a local veterinarian are sharing the message that secondhand smoke is just as damaging to a pet’s health as it is to a human’s.
“Exposure to secondhand smoke has been associated with allergies in dogs, eye and skin diseases in birds, lymph gland and oral cancers in cats, nasal and lung cancers in dogs, and respiratory problems in both cats and dogs,” said Community Health Educator Gloria Yugel.
Other pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs or any bird species are no less vulnerable to the dangers of secondhand smoke inhalation, she said.
Dr. Clayne R. White, a veterinarian with the Bayview Animal Hospital in Farmington said, “People need to be aware that domesticated pets used to live in the wild and they relied on their heightened sense of smell to survive.”
He said because of this their nasal membranes are much more sensitive than those of humans.
White said that asthma in cats is common. “We have found that if a cat lives in a home where someone smokes, the cat’s chances of developing asthma are 10 times greater than in a non-smoking household.”
Dogs are also at risk, he said. If someone in the household smokes, “Watch out for your dog coughing, wheezing or having difficulty breathing.”
He said secondhand smoke is particularly dangerous for puppies, which have weaker immune symptoms and are more susceptible to infection.
Yugel said recent studies have shown that more people will attempt to quit for the sake of their dog than for themselves or their children.
“Nearly 30 percent of pet owners who smoke would try to quit if they learned their secondhand smoke could harm their pets,” she said. “Unfortunately, fewer than 2 percent would do so for the sake of their children.”
Yugel said that Utah has free, effective smoking cessation resources available.
The Utah Tobacco Quit Line, 1-800-Quit.Now, offers telephone counseling from a trained coach who will help the caller develop a personalized plan and guide them through the quitting process.
Free FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapy is available to eligible callers, Yugel said. Services are provided in English and Spanish.
Utah Quit Net, www.utahquitnet.com also offers help with a personalized quit plan and provides access to a community of ex-smokers and smokers helping each other through the process of quitting.