MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Smoking costs Americans about $96 billion dollars each year in medical expenses. We know what smoking and second-hand smoke does to us but chances are you don’t know the dangerous effect that it can have on your pet.

Judy Ouelett said that she cares for her four-legged child, Max, as much as her own.

“We come to the dog park every single day,” said Ouelett.

In addition to exercise, Ouelett tries to keep Max away from as many smokers as she can.

“He’s just been diagnosed with Addison’s disease which is a hormone imbalance which doesn’t get nutrients to his body,” said Ouelett. “I would be really concerned about any smokers.”

Her dog’s veterinarian said that Oulett is smart for keeping precaution. Second hand smoke can be as much a health threat for animals as it is for people.

“Generally if it’s not good for us, it’s not good for your pets,” said veterinary oncologist, Heather Wilson-Robles.

Just like humans, animals can get lung damage, even cancer from tobacco smoke according to Wilson-Robles.

“Animals with asthma or bronchitis may have difficulties controlling their disease,” said Wilson-Robles. “A lot of vets, even though not much literature published to prove that, would tell you that they have seen similar experiences. The owner quit smoking and the pet’s lung problems or disease improved.”

Wilson-Robles said that she has had clients who wouldn’t quit for their spouse but they would for their pet.

“There’s no proven link say oral cancer, nasal to even lung cancer, results on a regular basis. In addition to just inhaling the smoke, they are exposed to chemicals in tars,” said Wilson-Robles. “They’re not getting bathed on a regular basis like we are and washing their hands so those type of things can build up on their coats and they can ingest them.”

The danger to pets is not only in the smoke but can also hurt their skin and stomach. When the owner smokes, chemicals get on their hands and it can spread – cats are particularly vulnerable.

“They’re grooming themselves, so they’re ingesting any of those chemicals and things on a regular basis,” said Wilson-Robles.

So how can you protect your pet from tobacco? It’s simple. Quit if you can.

However, if you can’t quit, you apply the same rules that you would with a baby.

“If you were a smoker with a baby, you’d smoke outside. You’d wash your hands, change your clothes,” said Wilson-Robles.

Also, you can follow Ouelett’s advice.

“I don’t let him around smokers and I don’t have smokers in my home.”


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