All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Monday, February 29, 2016

Second Hand Smoke is BAD for pets!

Dear Marie,
My roommate of 4 years has a new boyfriend (2 months) who is a smoker.  Because she is such a good roommate and always has her half of the rent on time, I overlook small problems that come up every now and then.  But I think I made a mistake by saying it was OK if her boyfriend smoked inside our home, and now I’m regretting it in a big way because he is here all the time…smoking!  I have a parakeet, a cat, and a small dog and they all seem to be suffering.  It may just be my imagination or coincidence, but since he came into the picture, it seems like my pets are sneezy, have runny eyes, are lethargic, and even have episodes diarrhea.  I don’t want to seem like I’m complaining, but I don’t want anything to happen to my pets either.  We only have a two-bedroom apartment and sometimes it’s so smoky inside, I think I’m walking through London Fog!  What should I do?

Dear Sheila,
I understand that good roommates are hard to find, but if she is as good as you say, she will understand if you tell her that you would like her boyfriend to only smoke outside.  If he is a decent guy, he’ll understand too.  If they give you a hard time about this, it may be time to find a new roommate. 

The fact is secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard for your pets AND YOU!  There is no reason that you should live under this condition.

But let’s just examine this issue from the animal health perspective.  Here are the facts.  Cats who are exposed to cigarette smoke are three times more likely to develop lymphoma as cats who don’t live with smokers.  Because cats groom themselves with their tongues, they ingest all the chemicals from the smoke that has settled onto and into their fur.  Essentially, they are getting a double dose of poison: one from just trying to breathe, and the other from grooming.   

Cats, like many humans, tend to be more likely to develop asthma if they are subjected to secondhand smoke.  And it is not uncommon to see chronic bronchitis in dogs that live with smokers.  Dogs who live in cigarette-smoke-filled homes also have a much higher risk of developing nasal tumors—especially dogs with long snouts—due to increased interior surface area on which carcinogens cling and wreak havoc.  Sadly, once diagnosed, dogs with nasal cancer usually don’t live beyond a year.

Of course, pets of all species are at risk of developing lung cancer, severe respiratory problems, cardiac abnormalities, eye irritation, diarrhea, vomiting, and other health maladies associated with the hundreds of chemicals and toxins that come from tobacco smoke. 

If you have a pet that likes to eat nonfood items that he finds on the floor, you should know that cigarette filters and butts are extremely toxic.  A small or very young animal that eats as few as two cigarette butts can die within a very short amount of time from the point of ingestion of these hazardous discards.

For bird owners, secondhand smoke is particularly dangerous as birds are far more susceptible to airborne toxins and carcinogens than other animals.  They may rapidly develop life-threatening respiratory problems.  Some birds begin feather plucking after exposure to secondhand smoke, which if left unchecked, will damage feather follicles to the point where no new feathers will ever grow again.  Heart disease, eye problems, and lung cancer in birds are all very real consequences stemming from living with a smoker.

Even if your roommate’s boyfriend smokes outside, you should immediately invest in a high quality air purifier.  This will reduce some of the hazardous chemicals that are stuck in your walls, carpet, furniture, etc.  Also, ventilate your home as much as possible. 

There has been some talk about “third-hand smoke” which amounts to the toxins that cling to a smoker’s hair, clothes, etc.  If your pets cuddle with your roommate’s boyfriend, they may be exposed to harmful contaminants.  Depending on how far you want to go with safety precautions, you may need to put your pets into your bedroom whenever the boyfriend comes over.  But, if he is over “all the time” as you mentioned, then it may just be time to move on and find a new place and/or a new roommate.  It may be hard to break the news, but honestly, it’s so much harder to see a beloved pet die from a preventable disease.

1 comment:

  1. The fact is secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard for your pets AND YOU! There is no reason that you should live under this condition.