Pets twice as likely to get cancer if exposed to tobacco smoke – Quitline
1 August 2019
New Zealand is a nation of animal lovers, pets are part of our whānau. Three out of five households have a pet, that’s around 4.6 million companion animals. 1 out of 10 New Zealanders smoke.
Our pets are at risk of many health issues if they’re exposed to tobacco smoke; dogs and cats are twice as likely to get cancer if their owners smoke around them and other animals too - including birds and guinea pigs - are susceptible to a range of health issues.
Quitline is launching ‘Quit for your pets’ – an evidence- based ‘nudge’ campaign that takes a unique angle to motivate people to quit smoking – by highlighting the harm that smoking can cause their pets, and encouraging animal-loving smokers to think about quitting smoking not just for themselves but for their pet too.
Pets and humans are not just at risk if they breathe in tobacco smoke second-hand but also from the harm caused by third-hand smoke. Third-hand smoke is the residual chemicals and nicotine left over on surfaces – it sticks to clothes, furniture, curtains, walls, carpets, dust and other surfaces and can be harmful long after smoking has stopped.
Third-hand smoke can cling to animal fur and feathers. Cats and birds, who are careful groomers can ingest third-hand smoke particles when cleaning themselves.
The campaign uses a short video that focuses on the relationship between an owner and his pet – his dog. Dogs are fiercely loyal and will follow their owners anywhere – even if it makes them ill. After showing smokers the path they are leading their pets down, we remind them it’s never too late to change direction – and to quit smoking. Getting support from Quitline to do that, increases the chances of quitting and staying quit.
Quitline spokesperson and Director of Māori Healthcare, Lance Norman said:
“We are aiming to bring awareness to another consequence of smoking, something many of us may not have thought about before is how much harm smoking can cause our pets.”
“Pets are such an important part of so many of our lives, most people would never want to intentionally cause any harm to their beloved pets, but many don’t know about the harm smoking can cause animals.”
“Going outside to smoke isn’t enough – for pets or for other members of the whānau - third-hand smoke the residue from smoking, can attach to clothes and follow someone back inside the house and cause harm long after smoking a cigarette.”
Your best mate will follow you anywhere, so lead them well. When you smoke around your pets, they are twice as likely to get cancer. Quit for your pet - start your quit journey today at quit.org.nz
Get in touch with Quitline at www.quit.org.nz, free calling 0800 778 778 or free texting 4006.
You can watch the video here:
Long-nosed dogs are more likely to get nose cancers as their noses filter out a lot of inhaled tobacco smoke particles which stay trapped in their noses, so less gets into their lungs. Unfortunately, this puts the tissues inside the nose and sinuses in contact with a lot of toxic, cancer-causing particles, leading to the increased risk of nose cancer.
While short and medium nosed breeds like pugs and bulldogs don’t have as much of a filter and fewer tobacco smoke particles get filtered out and more go directly into the lungs, so are at higher risk of lung cancer.
“Long nosed dogs are twice as likely to get cancer in a smoking environment”
“Short nosed dogs are more likely to get lung cancer if living in a smoking environment”
Source: American Journal of Epidemiology // The Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health
Cats are careful groomers which can be a bad thing if they’re living in a smoking household. Just like dogs, cats breathe in second-hand smoke directly. When cats groom themselves, though they also ingest third-hand smoke particles that fall onto their fur.
Third-hand smoke is the residual chemicals and nicotine left over on surfaces from tobacco smoke – it sticks to clothes, furniture, curtains, walls, carpets, dust and other surfaces long after smoking has stopped – it also clings to animal fur and since birds and cats are careful groomers they are not only exposed to the second-hand smoke by breathing it in, but when grooming, ingest third-hand smoke particles that have fallen onto their fur.
“Cats are at least twice as likely to get cancer if they live in a smoking environment”
“Studies show that cats living in smoking households have a two to four-times increased risk of an aggressive type of mouth cancer called oral squamous cell carcinoma.”
Source: Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, School of Public Health and Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts.
Studies show that cats living in smoking households have a two- to four-times increased risk of an aggressive type of mouth cancer called oral squamous cell carcinoma. The cancer is often found under the base of the tongue, where the third-hand smoke particles tend to collect after grooming. Of the cats that develop oral squamous cell carcinoma, less than 10% will survive 1 year after diagnosis, even if they’ve had chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation treatment.
Source: Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, Massachusetts
“Pocket pets” aren’t immune to the effects of tobacco smoke. In one study, guinea pigs exposed to second-hand smoke for more than 6 months developed microscopic changes in their lungs similar to those seen in people who smoke.
They also developed other problems like emphysema, a disease where the tiny air sacs in the lungs, the alveoli, get “stretched out” and don’t work properly; and pulmonary hypertension, high blood pressure in the blood vessels from the heart to the lungs, due to the vessels being too thick or not stretchy enough.
Source: Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Hospital Clinic-IDIBAPS, Barcelona, Spain
Believe it or not, smoking harms pet fish. Nicotine is toxic to fish. Both second-hand smoke and third-hand smoke contain a lot of nicotine. Because nicotine dissolves easily in water, it can eventually end up in a fish tank’s water and poison the fish inside it. Fish exposed to toxic levels of nicotine can develop muscle spasms, rigid fins, and loss of colour. They may also die.
Source: Aquatic Veterinary Services, 5 Corners Animal Hospital, New York
Birds are very sensitive to air pollution, including tobacco smoke. They can develop changes to their respiratory system similar to those seen in children exposed to tobacco smoke.
Birds that live in a smoking household breathe in second-hand smoke. And, like cats, birds like to groom or “preen” themselves. When they do so, they ingest third-hand smoke particles that have coated their feathers. Birds are also exposed to third-hand smoke by perching on their owners’ clothes or hands and absorbing the harmful particles through their feet or by preening their owners’ hair and ingesting the particles.
Birds that live with smokers can develop; irritated sinuses, pneumonia, allergies, lung cancer, feather plucking, eye problems, skin abnormalities, heart problems, fertility problems.
Source: Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health, Oklahoma State University
A bit more about third-hand smoke:
Pets and humans are not just at risk if they breathe in tobacco smoke but also from harm caused by third-hand smoke. Most of us know what second-hand smoke is but not third-hand smoke. This is the residual chemicals and nicotine left over on surfaces from tobacco smoke – it sticks to clothes, furniture, curtains, walls, carpets, dust and other surfaces and can be harmful long after smoking has stopped.
Third-hand smoke can cling to animal feathers and fur. Cats and birds who are careful groomers can ingest third-hand smoke particles when cleaning themselves.
Third-hand smoke builds up in areas where people smoke, it can last for months even after a smoker has stopped smoking—like a “gift” that keeps on giving. It can be released back into the air as gases or ultra-fine particles after reacting with chemicals normally present in the air, like nitrous acid and ozone.
Source: Department of Psychology, San Diego State University, San Diego and Center for Child and Adolescent Health Policy, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston and The Journal of Pediatrics
Like children, dogs and cats spend most of their time on or near the floor, where the tobacco smoke compounds concentrate in house dust, carpets, and rugs. Dogs, cats, and children can absorb these compounds through their skin and inhale them in contaminated house dust or as ultra-fine particles and gases that were released back into the air.
Source: Small Animal Medicine and Oncology, University of Glasgow.