Studies have demonstrated that tobacco and secondhand and thirdhand smoke are not only dangerous to humans, but also are hazardous and deadly to pets. Secondhand smoke refers to smoke inhaled involuntarily from tobacco being smoked by others. Thirdhand smoke refers to the residual nicotine and other chemicals left on a variety of indoor surfaces by tobacco smoke. This residue is thought to react with common indoor pollutants to create a toxic mix.
Specifically (with respect to secondhand smoke), researchers have found that exposure to tobacco smoke has been associated with certain cancers in dogs and cats; allergies in dogs; and eye and skin diseases and respiratory problems in birds.
Pop Culture: Prevent #CATmageddon
During the 58th Annual Grammy Awards (airing Mon., Feb. 15, 2016), truth® , a national youth tobacco prevention initiative, calls on viewers to prevent #CATmageddon. The campaign uses the fact that pets are two times as likely to get cancer if their owner smokes, as a way to gain attention for the number one cause of preventable death — tobacco. The video can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLtschJxRy8
How Does Smoking Affect Pets?
Tobacco Free Utah summarizes how exposure to tobacco and smoking affects pets and what the health consequences are for pets so exposed:
- By ingestion of cigarette or cigar butts which contain toxins.
- By drinking water that contains cigar or cigarette butts (which can have high concentrations of nicotine).
- By breathing secondhand smoke.
- By ingestion of nicotine replacement gum and patches.
- Breathing problems in dogs and asthmatic-like symptoms in cats
- Cardiac abnormalities
- Respiratory difficulties and respiratory paralysis
- Feline lymphoma in cats
- Lung cancer in dogs
- Nasal cancer in dogs
- Death: from 1-5 cigarettes and from 1/3-1 cigar can be fatal if ingested.
The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) lists tobacco smoke as a toxin that is dangerous to pets. According to a statement issued from the medical director of the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center:
“Nicotine from secondhand smoke can have effects to the nervous systems of cats and dogs. Environmental tobacco smoke has been shown to contain numerous cancer-causing compounds, making it hazardous for animals as well as humans.”
To better protect dogs, cats or other pets, the foundation and ASPCA recommend that smokers — who often consider their domestic pets a part of the family — “take it outside” when they are smoking. While this strategy will not eliminate the problem, it’s a step in the right direction.
Many veterinarians also counsel that symptoms in their furry patients with respiratory diseases such as asthma or bronchitis improve if the owners quit smoking. For those that do smoke, there are a few ways to tell if your habit is affecting your pet’s health. For animals with asthma, allergic lung disease, or bronchitis, you might see a dry hacking and progressive cough. Asthma pet-patients may have more frequent asthma attacks and their symptoms may be more difficult to manage medically. Animals with allergic lung disease will often have more severe symptoms if they live in a smoking household and these symptoms may persist all year round rather than being seasonal.
Pets & Smoke
According to PetFinder, all pets, regardless of species, can be adversely affected by smoke.
Dogs and secondhand smoke
Studies suggest that muzzle length plays a role in the type of cancer a dog is likely to develop from secondhand smoke. According to a survey of recent research on LiveScience.com, dogs with long muzzles are more likely to develop nose and sinus cancers, since their noses and sinuses have more surface area on which carcinogens can accumulate, while dogs with short and medium-length muzzles are more likely to develop lung cancer.
Cats and secondhand smoke
Cats are more prone to develop cancers of the mouth and lymph nodes because of secondhand smoke. When cats groom themselves, they lick up the toxic substances that have accumulated on their fur. “This grooming behavior exposes the mucous membranes of their mouth to the cancer-causing carcinogens,” veterinarian Carolynn MacAllister of Oklahoma State University tells LiveScience.com.
In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that cats living in homes where someone smokes a pack of cigarettes or more each day are three times more likely to develop malignant lymphoma than cats living with nonsmokers. And a study published in Veterinary Medicine found that cats exposed to smoke from one to 19 cigarettes a day are four times more likely to be diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma — the most common and an aggressive type of oral cancer in cats.
Small animals and secondhand smoke
Birds are extremely sensitive to air pollutants and are at risk for lung cancer and pneumonia when exposed to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke has also been found to cause heart problems in rabbits.
The nicotine in cigarettes is also highly toxic to pets if ingested, so keeping cigarettes out of the house entirely is always the best bet.
Tips: What You Can Do to Protect Your Pets — Until You Quit Smoking
To minimize your animal companions’ risks while you’re working your way up to quitting smoking, you can:
Follow the advice of the ASPCA and “take it outside.” Smoking only outdoors will prevent a large share of smoke particles from settling into your home or car, reducing your pet’s toxic load.
- Use a high-quality air purifier in your home to help remove excess toxins.
- Change your clothes after smoking, and wash your clothing right away–or at the very least, air it out outside.
- Wash your hands after smoking, and before you touch your pets
- Ideally, wash your hair after you smoke, especially if you have a pet (or a child) that will be in close proximity to you.
- Keep ashtrays clean — don’t leave them for your pets to find.
- Dispose of cigars, cigarettes, nicotine gum, patches, snuff, smokeless tobacco, etc. in receptacles that can’t be accessed by pets.
Smoking Cessation: The Best New Years Resolution to make, regardless of the date on your calendar.
The good news: according to the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], many adult cigarette smokers want to quit smoking. For instance:
- Nearly 7 in 10 (68.9%) adult cigarette smokers wanted to stop smoking.
- More than 4 in 10 (42.7%) adult cigarette smokers had made a quit attempt in the past year.
- Approximately 100,000 U.S. smokers are expected to stay quit for good as a result of the CDC Tips From Former Smokers campaign.
In a 2009 study published in Tobacco Control, entitled: “Pet Owners’ Attitudes and Behaviors Related to Smoking and Secondhand Smoke: A Pilot Study” — researchers led by Sharon M. Milberger, ScD, of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, investigated pet owners’ smoking behavior and policies on smoking in their homes, and the potential for educational interventions to motivate change in pet owners’ smoking behavior. Researchers found that:
- 4% of smokers who participated in an online survey said learning that secondhand smoke was bad for their pet’s health would motivate them to quit
- 7% said knowing the potential adverse health effects of secondhand smoke would spur them to ask their partners to quit.
If you believe your pet is suffering from tobacco-related issues of any kind, schedule an appointment with your local veterinarian immediately.