Pet owners say furry friends are
incentive to quit smoking By Matt Vande Bunte, The Grand Rapids Press
May 01, 2010, 11:51AM
Mary Ellen Ratuszny has her dog, Chief, to thank for helping her to quit smoking. "I think we've done a lot for each other," Ratuszny said. "People say, you may have saved each other." Ratuszny was a smoker when she adopted the Shepard Chow mix four years ago from the Kent County Humane Society, but she quickly learned the dog couldn't handle being around second-hand smoke. Ratuszny quit within a week. "He really has been a blessing," she said. WALKER -- Her doctor told her to quit. So did her dad. Yet, for more than 30 years, Mary Ellen Ratuszny kept smoking.
Then, she fell in love with Chief, a striking shepherd chow cross with an outgoing bark.
Only one problem: secondhand smoke would complicate the dog's heartworm treatment. So when Ratuszny last weekend celebrated the fourth anniversary of adopting Chief, it also marked four years since her last cigarette.
"The doctor, my father over the years, other people ragging on you to quit smoking, and here I do it for the dog," said Ratuszny, 56. "The consequences were right there in front of me.
"I did not want to do anything that was going to jeopardize the health and recovery of this dog. It was a very immediate, very concrete motivator."
For many of the same reasons secondhand smoke is deemed harmful to humans, some studies suggest pets also are at risk of tobacco-related respiratory problems, allergies and even cancer. So as a statewide ban on workplace smoking takes hold today
, one that may push smokers to light up more often in the privacy of their own home, a growing body of research begs the question: Should the ban be extended to pet owners' homes? Perhaps the thought alone is enough to give Fido's master pause.
"Minimizing or eliminating exposure to environmental tobacco smoke would be ideal for our canine and feline populations," said Stephan Carey, assistant professor of internal medicine at Michigan State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.
"(The risk) sort of parallels what we see in people. There are a couple things that are proven and there are more things with either strong or weak correlations."
For example, Carey said secondhand smoke increases risk of malignant nasal tumors in dogs, especially long-nosed breeds like Dobermans and Daschunds. Smoking also is linked to feline lymphoma, he said.
In fact, secondhand smoke may pose more of a threat to pets, particularly those confined indoors, than to people, who get outside and spend time in places where there is no smoking. Pets with asthma, chronic bronchitis or other airway diseases are at greatest risk, Carey said.
"Pets tend to have smaller airways, so they tend to get affected faster," said Laura Sullivan, a veterinarian at Cascade Hospital for Animals
. "When you think of cats, they groom themselves by licking. They're actually ingesting that (tobacco residue) when they're cleaning their fur. Their exposure is higher.
"There's definite evidence of increased risk, the same as you're going to see with your children."
Sullivan said she sees on a regular basis the effects of secondhand smoke on pets, and she has talked with some clients about the need to avoid smoking around their pets. Still, "it's probably not something that's broached very quickly because we don't often ask owners what their personal habits are," she said.
Nor is that a question asked by pet health insurers, said Loran Hickton, executive director of the Pittsburgh-based North American Pet Health Insurance Association
. Though "there's certainly a (health) effect on pets," insurance premiums for pets who live in homes where people smoke are the same as those for pets in smoke-free homes, he said.
About 1 million pets, less than 1 percent of the national market, have health insurance, Hickton said. A 2009 study by the Detroit-area Henry Ford Health System's Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention found that 75 percent of pet owners keep smoke-free homes.
"People are treating their pets like their family members and I don't think (secondhand smoke) is that much of an issue," Hickton said. "It's a small percentage of people that subject their pets to smoke.
"Much like their children, people are stepping outside their home to smoke. People really care for their pets."
On the one hand, Ratuszny knew smoking was bad for her own health, but the retired state psychologist was in denial. So it took a surprising revelation from Chief's veterinarian to convince her to kick the habit, if not for her sake then as a secondhand benefit to him.
"To not adopt the dog at that point wasn't even a thought. So I just said 'Well, this is the universe playing a joke,'" said Ratuszny, who was a volunteer dog-walker for the Humane Society of Kent County when she met Chief, who's now eight years old.
"I suppose I could (start smoking again now that Chief's heartworm is gone), but why? I like being able to breathe correctly. I just feel better. I've got more energy.
"The dog and I helped each other. He really has been a blessing to me."
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|BY THE NUMBERS|
|Is your pet more persuasive than your doctor? How pet owners respond to research that secondhand smoke harms pets:|
• 11 percent of pet owners who smoke would think about quitting
• 28 percent of pet owners who smoke would try to quit
• 16 percent of non-smoking pet owners who live with smokers would ask the people they live with to stop smoking
• 14 percent of pet owners who smoke would ask people not to smoke indoors
• 24 percent of non-smoking pet owners who live with smokers would ask people not to smoke indoors
• 19 percent of pet owners who smoke would prohibit smoking inside the home
• 13 percent of non-smoking pet owners who live with smokers would prohibit smoking inside the home
Source: Henry Ford Health System 2009 study
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Some Concern About This Story
Who will likely live longer, Mary Ellen or Chief? If Mary Ellen's primary reason for quitting was Chief, what happens when Chief passes away? While almost all of us enjoyed some degree of motivation from the positive consequences our recovery brought to those we love, allowing such motivations to reign supreme or become our core reason carries with it elevated risk of relapse.
Below is Joel's "Quitting for Others" article and while the pet's love can be vastly more unconditional and dependable than that of human humans, their time with is far too short. If you're putting pets or others above this most amazing gift you've given you, we encourage you to reflect on the value of transferring your core motivations into the host of positive factors that unfold during your journey here to Easy Street. Allow recovery to be our loving gift to us! Still only one rule ... no nicotine today! John
Joel's Reinforcement Library
Quitting for Others
"My husband can't stand it when I smoke - that is why I quit." "My wife is trying to quit, so I will stop just to support her." "My kids get sick when I smoke in front of them. They cough, sneeze, and nag me to death. I quit for them." "My doctor told me not to smoke as long as I am his patient, so I quit to get him off my back." "I quit for my dog."
All these people may have given up smoking, but they have done it for the wrong reason. While they may have gotten through the initial withdrawal process, if they don't change their primary motivation for abstaining from smoking, they will inevitably relapse. Contrary to popular belief, the important measure of success in smoking cessation is not getting off of cigarettes, but rather the ability to stay off.
A smoker may quit temporarily for the sake of a significant other, but he will feel as if he is depriving himself of something he truly wants. This feeling of deprivation will ultimately cause him to return to smoking. All that has to happen is for the person who he quit for to do something wrong, or just disappoint him. His response will be, "I deprived myself of my cigarettes for you and look how you pay me back! I'll show you, I will take a cigarette!" He will show them nothing. He is the one who will return to smoking and suffer the consequences. He will either smoke until it kills him or have to quit again. Neither alternative will be pleasant.
It is imperative for him to come to the realization that the primary benefactor in his giving up smoking is himself. True, his family and friends will benefit, but he will feel happier, healthier, calmer and in control of his life. This results in pride and a greatly improved self-esteem. Instead of feeling deprived of cigarettes, he will feel good about himself and appreciative to have been able to break free from such a dirty, deadly, powerful addiction.
So, always keep in mind that you quit smoking for you. Even if no one else offers praise or encouragement, pat yourself on the back for taking such good care of yourself. Realize how good you are to yourself for having broken free from such a destructive addiction. Be proud and remember - NEVER TAKE ANOTHER PUFF!