From Lighting Up Through Snuffing Out, Human Smoking Habits Endanger Pets Too

In children, exposure to second hand smoke exacerbates asthma symptoms, causes respiratory infections and increases a baby's risk for sudden infant death syndrome. Secondhand smoke increases an adult's chances for developing heart disease, lung cancer and stroke. Did you know that secondhand smoke, third-hand smoke and nicotine itself also pose adverse health risks to your furry family members?

Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke is the smoke that wafts from a burning cigarette, cigar or pipe. It is also the smoke that a smoker exhales into the air, where it is subsequently inhaled by others in the environment, including the pets. Tobacco smoke contains thousands of toxic chemicals, 70 of which have been identified as carcinogens. Once the smoke is released into the air, these chemicals rain downward to the level where your pet breathes. Exposure to secondhand smoke increases your pet's risk for the following deadly diseases:

  • Lung cancer, especially among short-nosed breeds in which carcinogens have a shorter route of passage into the lungs
  • Sinus cancer, especially among dogs with longer snouts in which carcinogens can settle and accumulate
  • Nasal tumors, especially among dogs with longer snouts

Inhaling secondhand smoke can also incite asthma attacks in cats that suffer from feline asthma.

You can reduce the amount of airborne toxins in your home by investing in an air purifier.

Third-hand Smoke

Once the chemicals of secondhand smoke settle on surfaces, such as clothing, furniture, bedding, curtains, flooring, walls, the interior of an automobile and on your pet's coat, this is known as third-hand smoke. Third-hand smoke accumulates into the dingy, smelly residue that quickly identifies a smoker's home or car. While third-hand smoke is not inhaled, the toxins then irritate your pet's exposed skin. This results in allergic dermatitis, which presents as itchy skin. The more your pet scratches to relieve the itch, the chances increase for the development of a secondary skin infection. If you smoke and share your home with a cat, be aware that she is especially vulnerable to the carcinogens. Cats are meticulous groomers, and a cat that lives with a smoker and licks her fur day after day ingests these carcinogens, increasing her risks for the following cancers:

  • Malignant lymphoma, the most commonly diagnosed cancer in cats
  • Oral cancers, such as squamous cell carcinomas

You can reduce your pets' exposure to secondhand smoke and third-hand smoke by ducking outdoors to smoke.

Nicotine Products Are Toxic When Ingested

Even if you head outdoors to have a smoke away from your pets, be mindful of how you dispose of your butts. Nicotine comes from the plant nicotania, which is more commonly known as tobacco, and it is listed on the ASPCA list of toxins as poisonous to dogs, cats and horses. Nicotine is found in cigarettes, cigars, snuff, e-cigarettes and nicotine replacement patches and gums. Ingesting cigarette butts, drinking water from a container where cigarette butts were tossed or consuming any product that contains nicotine puts your pet's life in jeopardy. Signs of nicotine toxicity include the following:

  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Diminished coordination
  • Excitability
  • Abnormally slow or rapid heart rate
  • Drooling
  • Pupillary constriction
  • Hallucinations
  • Paralysis

If you suspect that your pet has consumed nicotine, bring him or her to a veterinary emergency hospital at once. Nicotine toxicity can be fatal. Do not leave your nicotine products where inquisitive pets with indiscriminate palates can gain access to them. If you smoke indoors, keep ashtrays emptied and out of your pets' reach.

For more information, contact a veterinarian in your area.