Editorial — July 10, 2014

Staff ~ The Prince Albert Daily Herald
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If you’re a pet lover and a smoker, a recent study may help you to change the latter.

The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that secondhand smoke may do tremendous harm to cats and dogs; it reportedly causes malignant lymphoma in cats and lung and nasal cancer in dogs.

It could also cause allergy and breathing problems in both animals as well.

This isn’t exactly cutting edge news but it is a reminder for anyone who loves their animals.

The source of the story is recent studies done at Tufts University's School of Veterinary Medicine in Massachusetts, Colorado State University and other schools.

While lots of work still has to be done to make sure the connection is a direct one rather than a coincidence, the American surgeon general’s report first mentioned the possibility back in 2006.

As a result, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has asked pet owners to butt out.

The news is especially troubling for cat owners because their animals are more prone to lymphoma, one of the leading causes of feline death. In fact, the Morris Animal Foundation, which has been funding pet cancer research since 1962, says cancer is the No. 1 killer among diseases for cats and dogs.

Tufts research has shown that exposure to secondhand smoke doubled a cat’s chances of getting the cancer; living with a smoker for more than five years increased that risk by four times.

There is no definitive number of pets that die from tobacco exposure and there likely never will be because very few animals undergo post-mortem examinations.

But the Associated Press story said that there are a number of symptoms the animals display that could be a hint that they’re suffering from cancer, which include coughing, trouble eating or breathing, drooling, weight loss, vomiting, nasal discharge, bleeding and sneezing.

It’s no small concern in Canada.

It’s estimated that there are 12.5 million cats and dogs living in homes as pets. The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada industry estimated last year that it’s worth nearly $7 billion per year.

A year ago, Canada’s smoking rate was pegged at 19.9 per cent by Statistics Canada, with Saskatchewan leading the way among the provinces at 23.8 per cent. Only the territories were higher.

Globally, it’s estimated that about 22 per cent of adults smoke, with an overwhelming majority of those people living in middle or low-income countries.

It’s an interesting sidenote that cancer treatments are increasingly common for pets, although owners can see the bills mount up into the thousands for their beloved companions. It’s a seductive but expensive course of action for owners, with more than half of pet cancers cured or treated.

We won’t even delve into the 30 per cent of cancer deaths in people caused by smoking or the fact that it’s responsible for 85 per cent of lung cancer, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

If that’s not enough to scare smokers, maybe the idea that they’re bringing harm to their beloved pets will be.

 

Prince Albert Daily Herald

Organizations: The Associated Press, Tufts University, School of Veterinary Medicine Colorado State University American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Morris Animal Foundation Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada Statistics Canada Canadian Cancer Society Prince Albert Daily Herald

Geographic location: Massachusetts, Canada, Saskatchewan

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