More than half of U.S. households are home to at least one pet and the number is growing both nationwide and in Utah. Despite our local love for animals, many pets in Utah are exposed to secondhand smoke, which can have detrimental effects on their health and even lead to early death.
"Most pets are mammals, just like human beings, and exposure to secondhand smoke affects them the same way it affects people," says Dr. Nathan Cox, veterinarian at Cottonwood Animal Hospital. "It's hard when someone brings in a pet who is ill and doesn't even realize their addiction is causing the problem."
Studies show that dogs exposed to secondhand smoke are prone to nasal cancer and that once contracted, affected dogs rarely live more than one year. Exposed cats often experience oral cancer from licking themselves and ingesting the byproducts of secondhand smoke. Dogs and cats are also at risk if they ingest cigarette butts. "Just two cigarette butts can be deadly to a dog," said Amy Oliver Media Manager for the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program at the Utah Department of Health.
Birds and other exotic pets are also at risk for allergies and respiratory conditions caused by exposure to secondhand smoke. "I've seen in my practice that exposure makes more susceptible to chronic infections and asthma," says Cox. "Not only do these conditions make the pet miserable, the cost of treating them can really take a bite out of the family budget."
"We're sharing this information because we want people to be inspired to quit smoking for themselves and for their "best friends," said added Oliver. "And our community resources like the Quit Line and the UtahQuitNet.com can help pet owners make a plan to get themselves and their pets on track to a healthy life."
Studies show that nine in 10 pet owners consider their pet a member of the family and big household decisions, like car and home purchases, are often made with the pet's happiness in mind. Pet owners also spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars a year to treat tobacco-related illnesses in their animals.
Tobacco use is the single greatest cause of preventable death in Utah, claiming more human lives than car crashes, murders, suicides, AIDS, alcohol, drug abuse, and fires combined.
For free help quitting smoking, call the Utah Tobacco Quit Line at 1.800.QUIT.NOW, or visit www.UtahQuitNet.com.