This is a short follow-up to my previous article about the possible effect on domestic cats of electronic cigarette smoking in their vicinity (passive smoking). The conclusion from that article was that the risk to health was much lower than with conventional cigarettes but since then I’ve noticed that the chemical in some electric cigarettes, propylene glycol, can, albeit extremely rarely, cause a condition called Heinz body anaemia.
I don’t think cat owners should be worried about this but nonetheless it is worth mentioning. This is because, as I understand it, there is an alternative type of electronic cigarette which contains a different chemical called vegetable glycerin (VG), which may be safer. I’m simply flagging up possibilities so people can judge for themselves.
Passive smoking and its effects upon the domestic cat should be something that cat caretakers should, at least, be aware of and take some precautions against but as Marc correctly states there must be a balancing act between obtaining some pleasure from life and the downsides that those pleasures may bring to one’s health and (potentially) the health of others you are living with you.
Heinz body anaemia is anaemia due to red blood cell damage in cats. It seems that propping glycol can damage red blood cells. The petmd.com website states that this is a condition where red blood cells can be destroyed and it is usually a reaction to certain medications and the result of eating onions! How many cats eat onions? Hyperthyroidism and lymphoma can also bring on this rare condition. Other toxins that can cause the condition are: wilted red maple leaves, kale, turnips, zinc and garlic.
Anaemia is not that infrequently encountered in cats and therefore your veterinarian will be able to readily diagnose it and with your input about the environment in which your cat lives should be able to diagnose the cause.
However, I must stress that the source of this information states quite clearly that there is an extremely small risk that passive smoking from electronic cigarettes that contain propylene glycol will cause this disease. So please don’t get too worried about it but simply be aware of it. Please judge for yourself having read relevant information.
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