CLEARFIELD — If Spot could speak, he might tell his owners — if they smoked — that all that secondhand smoke is “ruff” on the both of them.
A Davis County Health Department educator and a nationally recognized Davis County veterinarian, after reviewing information from recent veterinary studies, contend secondhand smoke has serious effects on pets in the household.
They hope that educating pet owners who smoke about the dangers of secondhand smoke and the risk it poses to their pets will encourage them to quit smoking.
Studies show nearly 30 percent of pet owners who smoke would try to quit if they learned secondhand smoke could harm their pets, while fewer than 2 percent would quit smoking for the sake of their children, according to Gloria Yugel, a community health educator with the Davis County Health Department.
“Secondhand smoke is just as damaging to your pet’s health as it is to a human’s health,” Yugel said. “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 cancer in dogs, and respiratory problems in both cats and dogs.”
Other pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, or any bird species also are vulnerable to the dangers of secondhand smoke inhalation, Yugel said.
A recent study by U.S. veterinarians concluded that cats whose owners smoked were prone to feline lymphoma, a form of cancer that kills three out of four cats within a year of diagnosis, Yugel said.
Researchers found that such cats were twice as likely to develop the disease when compared to cats with nonsmoking owners, she said.
It also was revealed that if two people living in the house smoke, the risk for the cat to get cancer is four times greater, Yugel said.
Dogs are similarly endangered by secondhand smoke.
“Researchers have established that the development of canine asthma, as well as nasal and lung cancer, may be prompted by exposure to secondhand smoke,” Yugel 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. Because of this, their nasal membranes are much more sensitive than humans’ membranes,” said Clayne R. White, a veterinarian at Bayview Animal Hospital in Farmington.
“Asthma in cats is already a common ailment. 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 nonsmoking household,” said White, who gained national notoriety in 2010 when he took two white Bengal tiger cubs into his Kaysville home after they had been abandoned by their mother in captivity at the Lagoon zoo.
“Also, dogs are at risk. So, if someone in your household smokes,” White said, “watch out for your dog coughing, wheezing or having difficulties breathing.”
Secondhand smoke is particularly dangerous for puppies when they have weaker immune systems, making them more susceptible to infection, White said.