YouTube video, U of S vet urge smokers to butt-out for their pets

A message used in a new advertising campaign uses a cat video on YouTube to warn people about the harmful effects of second-hand smoke on pets, and specifically on cats.

Second-hand smoke can trigger asthmatic attacks in cats, says University of Saskatchewan vet

Truth Initiative's CATmageddon video warns cat owners their pets are at risk of cancer and other diseases caused by tobacco smoke. (Youtube)

Imagine a world without cat videos.

A new American advertising campaign is honing in on that message and using a cat video on YouTube to warn people about the harmful effects of second-hand smoke on pets, and specifically on cats.

On Saturday afternoon, the video had more than 2.5 million views on YouTube, and the president of the anti-smoking group behind the ad, Robin Koval, estimated it's been viewed more than 30 million times across the web. 

To fill in some of the details about how second-hand smoke affects pets, CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning spoke with Elisabeth Snead, a small animal and internal medicine specialist at the University of Saskatchewan's Western College of Veterinary Medicine.

"It stands to reason that [dogs and cats] have the same type of lungs that we do in terms of structure and function," she said.

According to Snead, second-hand smoke can cause changes and scarring in dogs' and cats' lungs over time.

There's also an increased risk of developing cancers later in life, Snead said. 

One example that stands out for cats is asthma, especially Siamese cats, a breed that is particularly susceptible to the condition. 

"When they live with a smoker, they can have very, very severe asthmatic attacks," she said. 

Sometimes the pets even need to be put in an oxygen cage in order to actually breathe, according to Snead. 

Snead said she's had cases where she's had to inform owners for the time about how their smoking habits are hurting their pets.

"That's always very difficult, because you don't want to make them feel guilty. Education has to be the key."

She said many owners don't realize to what extent their smoking plays a role in their pet's disease, but once they do, many are willing to alter their behaviour and not smoke around their pets. 

As for advice for smokers who own pets, she said smoke outside of the home, so that the residue from the smoke doesn't accumulate in the house. 

"Use it as a big incentive to quit smoking."


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