We’ve had it ingrained in us that smoking is terrible for our health. Plus, a lot has come to light about the damage smokers do to loved ones they live with via secondhand and third-hand smoke. This goes for assistance dogs, too, as well as pets. Dogs, cats, birds, and other animals are all susceptible to the respiratory illnesses, cancers, and other conditions associated with smoking in humans.
Assistance dogs take great care of their people partners; it’s every person’s responsibility to take just as good care of their canine partners. That means giving up smoking for the sake of the dog’s health, not to mention their own health and that of the rest of their family.
Secondhand and Third-Hand Smoke
Smokers directly inhale the carcinogenic, toxin-laden smoke of cigarettes. But the damage from cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and e-cigarettes isn’t only done through directly inhaled smoke. Risks are also significant with two types of so-called environmental tobacco smoke (ETS): secondhand and third-hand smoke.
Secondhand smoke refers to the smoke floating around in the environment from the burning nicotine product and exhaled by the smoker. Third-hand smoke refers to the residue that builds up on furniture, walls, rugs, skin, hair, fur, and other surfaces from the smoke in the atmosphere. Over time, you can even observe third-hand smoke as it causes a yellowish-brown discoloration on surfaces.
Both types of ETS contain all the same poisonous chemicals as the smoke inhaled by a smoker. While its damage isn’t as potent as directly inhaled smoke, its effects accumulate over time and are associated with the development of various types of cancer and other diseases in humans and animals alike.
Smoking Risks to Assistance Dogs
If you smoke, your service, hearing, or guide dog breathes in secondhand smoke, and comes into contact with third-hand smoke. Third-hand smoke even builds up on your dog’s coat and is ingested when she grooms herself (incidentally, this is a huge problem for cats, who groom themselves far more often and thoroughly).
Your dog comes into contact with ETS in your home, vehicle, and even outside. It’s important to note, too, that smoking exclusively outside has been show to reduce, but not eliminate, risks; your assistance dog still suffers exposure.
Dogs living with smokers have significantly increased risk of developing respiratory ailments like asthma, bronchitis, and chronic lung infections. They’re also more prone to eye problems and cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, they are at a much higher risk for lung, nasal, and other cancers.
The length of a dog’s snout plays a strong role in the type of smoking-related cancer she’s most at risk for. Dogs with long snouts are 250% more likely to develop nasal or sinus cancer with significant exposure to secondhand and third-hand smoke than dogs without exposure. Dogs with short snouts are far more likely to develop lung cancer instead. This is because more smoke and residue reaches the lungs in dogs with short snouts, while much more of it builds up in the snout with a longer nose.
One Other Big Risk
Smoking poses one other significant risk to your assistance dog. If she eats some of your cigarettes, cigarette butts, cigars, tobacco, or other smoking product, it can poison her. Nicotine is highly toxic, and smoking products are full of other toxins. It doesn’t take much to cause toxicity with consumption.
If your dog eats any smoking products, get emergency veterinary attention right away. Even if you just suspect consumption and observe possible signs or symptoms of toxicity, get help without delay. Some common signs include acute vomiting or diarrhea, irregular heartbeat, loss of coordination, lethargy, weakness, collapse, and loss of consciousness.
For your sake, for your family’s sake, and for your assistance dog’s continuing comfort and good health, it’s time to quit smoking! You’ve handled other considerable adversity in your life, and you can handle this too! For resources and help, start with SmokeFree.gov.