In light of today’s (1 October) legislation forbidding drivers to smoke with children in their vehicles, vets are encouraging pet owners to avoid smoking for their animals’ benefit as well.

Smoker walking dogs
Pet owners are being urged to quit smoking in the vicinity of their pets. Image ©

The effects of passive smoking on humans are well documented, but the BVA and BSAVA are concerned many owners may be inadvertently harming their pets by lighting up when together in an enclosed space.

The legislation banning smoking in cars coincides with Stoptober, the NHS campaign encouraging people to stop smoking throughout October, and there is more support than ever to quit.

BVA president Sean Wensley said most smokers understood lighting up around children was harmful, but fewer people were aware of the impact passive smoking could have on their pets.

“Sadly, this health impact, as in people, may be cancer and owners are often understandably distressed when they realise their pet’s cancer may be the result of secondary tobacco smoking,” he said.

“This legislation doesn’t apply to animals, but we hope owners will take this opportunity to protect their pet, either by quitting or keeping their car and home smoke-free.”

A study by leading oncologist Clare Knottenbelt, of the University of Glasgow School of Veterinary Medicine, clearly demonstrated a correlation between the levels of nicotine in a dog’s fur and its exposure to cigarette smoke in the home.

Ross Allan, of the BSAVA, said many smokers had never thought about the effects of their habit on their pets.

“But there is evidence tobacco smoke increases the risks of lung and nasal cancers in dogs and of lymphoma in cats,” he said. “As veterinary surgeons we champion the prevention of illness and disease, and many owners might be more likely to give up tobacco for the sake of their pet if they realised the consequence of their smoking.”

The study, funded by BSAVA’s PetSavers charity, demonstrated dogs were inhaling and probably ingesting cigarette smoke, which was known to increase the incidence of cancer in them.

Prof Knottenbelt added: “While veterinary medicine is advancing all the time and we have the ability to treat some cancers in pets, it is expensive and provides no guarantees of long-term survival.

“The best way of avoiding damage to your pet’s health is to not smoke around them – or, better still, give up. It would be good for your own health too.”

Dogs in non-smoking households were shown to have very low levels of nicotine incorporated into their fur compared with animals owned by regular smokers. A third group of pets owned by smokers who only smoked outside the house had intermediate levels of nicotine in their coat.

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