published Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Secondhand smoke can kill pets

Smokers may not realize it, but research from the ASPCA suggests that secondhand smoke can kill pets.

According to a news release from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, secondhand smoke is unsafe at all levels -- for humans and pets.

"One recent study shows that nearly 30 percent of pets live with at least one smoker," said Dr. Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, medical director of the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center. "This is a grave concern since secondhand smoke can damage the nervous systems of both cats and dogs."

Because tobacco smoke has been shown to contain numerous cancer-causing compounds, it's hazardous for animals as well as humans, Gwaltney-Brant said.

Cats who live with smokers are prone to developing malignant lymphoma, perhaps as a result of ingesting carcinogenic residue when it settles on their fur. Kitty's canine counterparts are especially vulnerable to secondhand smoke's respiratory effects and can develop life-threatening nasal and lung cancers, the news release said.

"Our pets are a very important part of our families. We all want to do what is best for them, and not smoking will improve our pets' health and extend their lives as well as everyone else's," said Shirley Cudabac, local development director of the American Lung Association in Tennessee.

The ASPCA report said that nicotine, found in cigarettes and other tobacco products, is also highly toxic to animals if ingested. A dog that accidentally eats tobacco may develop weakness and muscle twitching, experience a decreased breathing rate and finally collapse into a coma and possibly die.

Cudabac said the American Lung Association's online Freedom From Smoking resources "can help anyone quit smoking." Find it at

Contact Karen Nazor Hill at or 423-757-6396.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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