Smoking Is Bad for You
(and Your Beardie)

Does your Beardie smoke at the groomer’s? Or does your Beardie smoke in the car? Perhaps your Beardie smokes after dinner or while taking a walk. If you smoke, chances are your Beardie is inhaling your secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is a mixture of the smoke exhaled by smokers and the smoke that comes from the end of a cigarette, cigar or pipe. Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemical compounds and many of these compounds are cancer causing agents. Secondhand smoke not only affects humans, but it also has a traumatic effect on pets.

Two studies were done at Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital headed by John Reif, professor of epidemiology, and the department chairman for environmental and radiological health sciences, and associates that helped to bring awareness of secondhand smoke to the public. Although the public is slowly becoming aware of the effects of secondhand smoke through studies like these, the concept is still unknown to many. Out of 20 random practicing veterinarians called in the Fort Collins and Loveland yellow pages, not one of them knew a lot about any studies done about the effects of secondhand smoke and pets. Also, none of these veterinarians are currently talking to their clients about secondhand smoke's potential negative effects.

All pets are susceptible to getting cancer. The study by CSU found that a dog that has exposure to a smoker in the home is 1.6 times more likely to develop lung cancer than a dog that is not exposed to a smoker .Dogs with short noses have higher rates of lung cancer and are 50% more likely to develop lung cancer when they live with people who smoke. Their short noses make it more difficult to filter out cancer causing particles and these particles are deposited into the lungs. Long nosed dogs can still contract lung cancer, but they tend to have a higher rate of nasal and other respiratory cancers than short nosed dogs. In theory, a dog with a long nose has an extra filtering system in its nose, so it is more likely to develop nasal cancers, but because of this extra filtering system, tobacco smoke is less likely to reach its lungs and cause cancer there.

There are several reasons why dogs are so susceptible to getting cancer. First, most dogs have much smaller lungs than humans; the smaller the dog, the greater the risk of getting cancer when exposed to secondhand smoke. Your Beardie’s lungs are similar in size to that of a child, and studies indicate that smoking around children is a proven health hazard. Another reason for canine cancer may be your home. Home is where most dogs are exposed to secondhand smoke. The majority of people spend 60-70% of their time in the house. On the average, dogs spend from 90-95% of their time inside the house. Secondhand smoke is filled with chemicals that circulate in the air for hours and will eventually find their way onto your carpet, floor, furniture and even your Beardie’s coat! In addition, some dogs can experience allergic reactions to secondhand smoke. Common symptoms of this reaction are scratching, biting, and chewing on their skin. These symptoms are sometimes mistaken for food allergies or insect bites. Some of the warning signs of lung cancer in dogs include chronic coughing, weight loss and abnormal fatigue. Warning signs of nasal cancer include swelling over the nose or sinus area, sneezing and a bloody nasal discharge.

Your Beardie can also become ill by ingesting cigarette or cigar butts that contain toxins; or by drinking water that contains cigarette or cigar butts. If you are trying to quit, be careful not to leave that nicotine replacement gum or patch somewhere that is accessible to your pet. These products contain high levels of nicotine, which can be harmful to your dog. Just two cigarette butts, if eaten by a puppy, can be fatal!

Your Beardie may suffer the following health effects due to secondhand smoke:

If you smoke, consider quitting. If you must smoke, do not smoke around your dog and ask that others do the same. Keep your ashtrays clean and don’t leave butts for your Beardie to find. Please dispose of nicotine gum and patches in receptacles that can’t be accessed by your dog. Your Beardie’s health — one more very good reason to stop smoking!

For information to help you kick the habit visit one of the following web sites:

Maryann Szalka