You know what they say: where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
A recent study by the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine underscores the link between secondhand smoke and cancer in pets. According to the study, secondhand smoke can cause lung and nasal cancer in dogs, malignant lymphoma in cats and allergy and respiratory problems in both animals.
Cats are particularly susceptible to tobacco smoke—the study found that repeated exposure to secondhand smoke doubled a cat’s chances of getting cancer, and living with a smoker for more than five years increased the risk fourfold. Lymphoma is one of the leading causes of feline death.
Though there are currently no statistics on how many pets die each year due to the effects of secondhand smoke, the CDC estimates that over 42 million adults in the United States regularly light up—which means plenty of pets are at risk. And though research is still being done on the risks of electronic cigarettes, it is worth noting that nicotine is extremely toxic to animals. E-cigarette cartridges should be disposed of with utmost care in order to prevent animal ingestion.
If you are a pet parent—especially a smoker—be on the lookout for the symptoms of cancer, which include coughing, trouble eating or breathing, drooling, weight loss, vomiting, nasal discharge, bleeding, and sneezing.
The ASPCA strongly urges pet parents to designate their homes as smoke-free areas. Either set up a smoking space outdoors, or, even better, quit the habit altogether (after all, it’s bad for humans, too).
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Last week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed new guidelines designed to curb the rampant over- and misuse of antibiotics on factory farms: 80 percent of all antibiotics bought in the United States are purchased to give to farm animals, primarily to speed their growth and prevent illnesses that would otherwise spread like wildfire in their unsanitary, crowded conditions. Daily doses of drugs are propping up an inhumane factory farming system and contributing to growing antibiotic resistance among humans, threatening people’s lives as well.
The FDA now acknowledges that antibiotics should not be used to make animals grow faster, which is important, but the new guidelines are voluntary and the same drugs can still be used for “prevention” of illness. Factory farms wouldn’t need to prevent disease so much if the animals were kept in better conditions. But pharmaceutical and agricultural industries have an economic interest in producing as much product, as cheaply as possible, often at the expense of animal welfare, and routine doses of antibiotics are perpetuating this sick system.
As an example, most of today’s chickens raised for meat spend their lives in giant, windowless sheds where they have less than 1 square foot of space each by the time they are full grown. Breeding for disproportionately large breasts and excessive body weight means they struggle to stand or move. Essentially immobilized in their own waste, chickens raised on factory farms could be at higher risk of carrying Salmonella and other foodborne illnesses. Antibiotics stand in for these birds’ compromised immune systems and allow the meat industry to continue to cut corners dangerously. Farm animals and consumers alike need stronger action from the FDA.
Diabetes is a real problem for cats in this country, but the good news is that we now have a much better understanding of this condition, and even better, we can cure it in many cases. Best of all, we are learning how to prevent it, which is the ideal strategy for a healthy, happy cat.
Cause: It’s now believed that many cases of feline diabetes are caused by excess carbohydrates in the diet. Dry cat foods in particular can be high in carbohydrates. Cats are not designed to properly metabolize carbohydrates, and cats on dry food may become obese. Additionally, the excess of carbs forces the pancreas, the organ that produces insulin, to overwork. Over time, the pancreas can become exhausted, and lose the ability to make sufficient insulin. This lack of insulin causes diabetes.
Treatment: Most diabetic cats have not permanently lost the ability to produce insulin. In order to rest the pancreas and allow it to return to normal function, cats are given twice-daily insulin injections. It’s essential to carefully regulate diabetes so the cat receives the proper amount of insulin to restore the function of the pancreas while avoiding low blood sugar, a potential side effect of insulin treatment.
The second essential component of treatment is the cat’s diet. For the best chance of curing diabetes, most cats should eat a canned diet formulated for diabetes, or a canned kitten food. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian regarding the best diet for your own cat.
A note of caution: Cats who refuse to eat can become very ill. Any diet changes must be made cautiously, with careful monitoring of the appetite.
For optimal treatment of diabetic cats, it may be advisable to consult with a veterinary internal medicine specialist. We have two on staff at the ASPCA Animal Hospital: Dr. Pomrantz and Dr. Frank. To find a veterinary internist in your local area go to www.acvim.org.
Prevention: We all know that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” For diabetes prevention as well as urinary tract and digestive health, we advise feeding cats canned food in meals, rather than allowing them to graze on dry food. Just remember that when attempting to make any change in a cat’s diet, such as from dry to canned food, patience and caution are essential. Never allow a cat to “hunger strike,” which can cause serious illness.
Attention, pet parents: The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) has voluntarily recalled specific lots of dry pet food due to potential Salmonella contamination. No Salmonella-related illnesses have yet been reported in association with these product lots, but P&G is recalling them as a precautionary measure.
The Maryland Legislature passed three great bills for animals this year, and we are thrilled to report that Governor Martin O’Malley has now signed all of them into state law! The new laws establish a statewide spay/neuter fund; close a loophole in Maryland’s animal fighting law by adding a prohibition on “baiting”; and prohibit the sale and possession of shark fins.
Maryland will soon have one of the most robustly funded statewide spay/neuter programs in the country. As outlined in the Spring 2013 issue of our members’ magazine ASPCA Action, the new program will be funded by a small surcharge on commercial pet food brands registered in the state, and is expected to generate approximately $1 million annually by 2016. This small fee on pet food will have almost no effect on pet parents, but a huge, positive impact on efforts to manage pet overpopulation in Maryland.
“This innovative spay/neuter program is one of the most important victories for animals in many years,” says Ann Church, ASPCA Vice President of State Affairs. “This legislation should be used as a model for other states to adopt similar provisions, and we applaud the many local animal shelters and humane groups who worked together to make this new program a reality.”
Inspired by this big win in Maryland? Visit our Advocacy Center to find out you can take action for animals in your state, and share this post on Twitter with the hashtag #TakeAction.