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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Smoking, Second-Hand Smoke, Third-Hand Smoke and Dog Cancer

Updated: October 1st, 2018

hand-smoke-dog-cancer We are all becoming more aware of healthy nutrition and lifestyle.  Much of what was deemed innocuous in our grandparents time is being exposed as risky. We’ve known for decades that smoking is hazardous to the smoker, and the term ‘second-hand smoke’ soon followed as science discovered that you didn’t need to smoke to be at risk from airborne carcinogens.  We now have bans on smoking in public places, and even won’t-give-up smokers will respect others and find the designated area where they can enjoy their habit.

Protecting our Pets

We know that inhaling second-hand smoke is dangerous, and we protect ourselves, our children and infants from it.  If we’ve really thought it through, we also protect our animals.  Those loving companions with long, sensitive noses who want nothing more than to cuddle on laps or lie at our feet are also in danger of inhaling toxins that could cause life-threatening problems.

Dr. Dressler addressed the danger to our pets from second-hand smoke in Smoke Screens and Dog Cancer. Tobacco smoke is an airborne carcinogen and there is mounting evidence linking it to malignancies in our dogs. They not only have a sense of smell far superior to ours, but a nasal cavity with more surface area to absorb everything, good and bad.  Older dogs, and particularly our long-nosed breeds such as Collies and Dachshunds statistically appear to be more at risk.

Science has now proved that avoiding the smoker and the second-hand smoke may not be enough.

The third threat

You know the smell that lingers in smoking areas, and on clothes and hair after a party or a night out?  This is “third-hand smoke”, a cocktail of toxic residue including arsenic, cyanide and lead that gradually coats every surface.  Second-hand smoke eventually dissipates from a room, but the third-hand threat remains.

Not only does it linger, it grows with each invisible coat. And on every surface it touches, it combines with the chemicals in the carpet, the chemicals in the upholstery, the chemicals in the laminate flooring, in the silk flowers in the vase, every iPad and cell phone, and on the surface of every pet bed and toy.  It even builds up on our pets.

We can wash our hair and launder the clothes, even steam the carpet, but how often do we thoroughly bathe our pets?  The residue builds up on them as well.  When they groom, lick their paws, chew their toys and nuzzle their noses down into those plush beds we provided, they are in direct contact with the cocktail of every environmental chemical, cleanser and airborne toxin.

Is it more dangerous for my dog than for me?

In many ways, yes. Not only are they in closer proximity to many of the surfaces and substances that can cause harm but, just like toddlers they have a smaller body, and faster respiration and metabolic rates than we do.  So what they contact can contaminate more quickly.

The 2006 surgeons general’s report confirms that if we really want to protect all our loved ones, we need to consider third-hand smoke a life-threatening reality.

Be Aware and Care

Every time I come across a new report about a threat to myself and my dogs I’m tempted to throw my hands up in despair. Is nothing safe?  My mind used to wander back and feel guilty that I didn’t know this when I had my Beagle or my lovely old Doberman.

But now I know that’s wasted energy, and I feel good when I discover another way to help my dogs. The incidents of canine nasal tumors are increasing.  Environmental carcinogens are a direct threat, so knowing my enemy helps me avoid and neutralize it.  We can spread the word too, and tell our pet-loving friends and family about this research.  Learn how to keep our homes naturally clean, and how to check for early signs of nasal problems in our pets.  We humans unconsciously created the problem, and we can consciously fix it.

If your dog has a cancer diagnosis of any kind, the most important thing you can do is to become informed about it, learn about treatment options, good nutrition, and how to navigate the diagnosis and the emotional roller coaster ahead. The Dog Cancer Survival Guide is the best resource I have found for all of this and more.

Happy Tails!


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