Smoking and Pets: Protecting Your Animals From Second-Hand Smoke

Second-hand smoke is harmful for your pets just like it is harmful for the other people in your home. The masses of harmful chemicals in smoke pose a threat to dogs, cats and other pets, and if you leave cigarette butts around, they can also shallow these and have problems as a result.

Most people know that second-hand smoke is harmful to those around you, but many people don’t think about the impact on your pets. Smoke is a mixture of over 7,000 chemicals, with several toxic ones among them and around 70 known to cause cancer. Inhaling these chemicals – whether you inhale it “first-hand” as a smoker or second-hand as a bystander when somebody else is smoking – increases the risk of a wide range of health conditions. For smoking and pets, the situation is exactly the same as for a human, and this provides yet another reason to quit smoking for any pet owners.

Second-Hand Smoke and Dogs

Second-hand smoke affects dogs in a similar way to how it affects humans, but the impact it has is dependent on the breed of dog. In particular, long-nosed dogs are more likely to get nasal cancer after exposure to second-hand smoke, and shorter-nosed dogs or those with medium snout sizes are more likely to get lung cancer. The reason for this is that in long-nosed dogs, the greater surface area on the inside of the nose gives the carcinogens more chance to be deposited and build up before they reach the lungs. In shorter-nosed dogs, this is less likely to happen, and so more carcinogens make their way to the lungs.

Other researchers have examined the effect of second hand smoke on dogs by looking at the testicles of male dogs who’ve been castrated, and found that dogs living in homes with a smoker were more likely to have a gene that acts as a marker for cell damage. This gene has been linked with dog cancer in other studies, so it adds further evidence that second-hand smoke is harmful to dogs.

Dogs’ lungs are also affected by second-hand smoke, with studies showing that second-hand smoke is a cause of bronchitis in dogs.

Second-Hand Smoke and Cats

Just like dogs, cats are also at risk from second-hand smoke exposure. For one, lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system) is more common in cats living with smokers, who are twice as likely to get this in comparison to cats living with non-smokers. Unfortunately, this cancer kills about three out of four cats who develop it within a year.

One of the most relevant factors for cats exposed to smoke is their grooming behavior. Cats lick and groom their fur very regularly, but when you smoke, harmful chemicals settle in your pets’ fur. Cats’ grooming of this fur exposes their mouth to carcinogens, and as a result of this, cats are more likely to get oral cancer if they live with a smoker. The risk of this is greater the longer they live with a smoker.

As you may expect, cats are also susceptible to lung problems when they live with a smoker too. Cats who live with smokers are more likely to develop asthma, and cats can also get chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is closely linked to smoking in both animals and humans.

Smoking and Pets: Other Animals Are At Risk Too

It goes without saying that the risks associated with smoking and pets aren’t confined to dogs and cats. For example, studies have shown that birds who live with smokers are more likely to get atherosclerosis, a condition where fatty deposits build up on the inner walls of the arteries. Smoke can also settle into the water of fish tanks, and the nicotine and ammonia that form part of smoke are particularly toxic to fish.

Cigarette Butt Litter and Pets

Finally, if you don’t dispose of your cigarette butts properly, this can pose a risk to pets too. A curious dog or cat could eat a cigarette butt, and these are known to contain toxic chemicals, as well as posing a choking risk. A study looking into this found that it wasn’t that common, but it does occur. This is much more likely in dogs than cats, but it can happen to both.

Smoking and Pets: Breaking the Link by Quitting

Both smoking and the litter from smoking pose serious risks to your pets, but you can reduce the risk. Smoking outside won’t completely protect your pets – because some of the smoke settles on your clothes and is released back into the air when you’re inside – but it will drastically reduce the risk.

The best way to reduce the risk to your pets as well as yourself is to quit smoking. Quitting smoking is hard, but there are medications and alternative nicotine products that can help you. Switching to e-cigarettes would still expose your pets to vapor, but the levels of harmful chemicals are much lower than in smoke and the risk would be reduced accordingly. However, the “e-liquid” used in e-cigarettes contains nicotine and is very toxic to pets, so you have to be careful they can’t get access to it.

This is why the ideal solution for both yourself and your pets is to stop using nicotine products altogether, but if you can’t, alternative products are much less dangerous to your pets than smoking.