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Lifestyle // The Wild Side
Dr. John Kaya

Cigarettes And Household Pets

There are many responsibilities that come with owning a pet. Proper housing, food, exercise and enrichment activities are essential to good health.

What would contribute to bad health? You would be surprised.

The sad fact of the matter is that many owners do harm to their pets without even knowing what they’re doing.

This is the story of Simon.

Mr. Dobbs brought in his 10-year-old cat Simon for his annual exam. “How’s Simon been doing?” I asked.

“Well, Doc, I think he’s doing just fine. For the most part, Simon just hangs around the house and sleeps. He’s not as active as he used to be, but I figured he’s getting long in the tooth,” responded Mr. Dobbs.

As I proceeded with the exam, I couldn’t help but notice that Simon seemed to be breathing with a little more effort than normal.

Suddenly, he started to have coughing spasms. The episode lasted 10 seconds, then stopped just as abruptly as it began.

As I turned to Mr. Dobbs, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “Simon does that sometimes. But so does everyone else in the household, so I didn’t think much about it,” chuckled Mr. Dobbs. “Should we be concerned?”

Reviewing the chart, I mentioned to Mr. Dobbs that Simon’s weight dropped from 12 pounds the year before to 10 pounds today. Coupled with the coughing displayed moments before, I suggested that we take an X-ray of Simon’s chest just to make sure there wasn’t anything serious going on. Mr. Dobbs agreed.

After the X-rays were taken, I went to get Mr. Dobbs from the waiting room, but he was nowhere to be found. Our receptionist told me that he went outside to get some air and would be back soon. A few minutes later we were back in the exam room reviewing the X-rays.

“Mr. Dobbs, the pattern that we’re seeing in Simon’s lung fields is not normal. Along with his weight loss, I suspect that Simon has a very serious illness.”

Clearing his throat, Mr. Dobbs expressed his concern over his little buddy’s condition. Hesitantly, he asked, “Could secondhand smoke have contributed to Simon’s problem?”

The veterinary technicians taking Simon’s X-rays did mention that Simon smelled of smoke, which I failed to notice in the exam.

“Secondhand smoke affects animals just as it does people,” I explained. “Does anyone smoke around Simon?”

Mr. Dobbs confessed to smoking in the house.

In fact, he said there were a total of four smokers who lived with Simon and that he thought that Simon was subjected to secondhand smoke on a daily basis.

Shaking his head, he promised to tell everyone to smoke outside and away from Simon.

Sadly, I mentioned that it was a little too late.

Many times animals have very little say in their living conditions. In truth, they may be saying a lot, but are we listening?

Simon died a few months after his diagnosis, and his owners grieved for a long period of time. They didn’t know. How could they? How could they?

Dr. John Kaya is the director of the Windward Community College veterinary technician program and associate veterinarian for VCA University Animal Hospital

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