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Secondhand Smoke in Birds

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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Much press has been given to the effects of secondhand smoke on people but what, if any, is the effect on our pets?

Environmental tobacco smoke or second-hand smoke is composed of the smoke exhaled from a smoker as well as the smoke released from the end of a burning cigarette, pipe or cigar. It consists of more than 4,000 chemicals including carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, benzene, chromium, nickel, vinyl chloride and arsenic.
Scientific evidence carefully collected over the last 30 years shows that people repeatedly exposed to environmental tobacco smoke are more likely to develop and die from heart problems, lung cancer and breathing problems. Several studies have been done that show chronic exposure also increases the incidence of lung disease and eye irritation in our pets. Since birds have an extremely sensitive respiratory system, it makes sense that this can be particulary devastating to them.

For birds, it is suspected that long-term exposure to secondhand smoke in poorly ventilated areas predisposes them to pneumoia and other respiratory ailments, including lung cancer. Unfortunately, many of the harmful products in smoke are in the form of gas. Therefore, environmental tobacco smoke cannot be entirely filtered out through ventilation systems or special fans. It can take many hours for the smoke of a single cigarette to clear. Keeping a bird healthy includes avoiding smoke from burnt food, burnt teflon, house fires, as well as tobacco.

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