Stop Smoking – For Your Health and Your Pets’ Health

You don’t need us to tell you the harm that smoking can do to your body, or the risks posed to children and others from secondhand smoke. But perhaps you’re unaware of the harm it can be doing to your pets. Because pets share our environments, they also share our environmental exposures – including tobacco smoke.1,2

Dogs living in homes with smokers have significantly higher levels of cotinine (a breakdown product of nicotine) in their blood, indicating exposure to nicotine through secondhand smoke.3 A 1998 study found that environmental exposure to tobacco smoke resulted in an increased risk of cancer of the nasal cavity and sinuses of dogs, particularly those with longer snouts (such as collies, greyhounds and many other popular breeds); and the more packs the smoker smoked, the higher the dog’s risk of cancer.4  This is likely because their longer nasal passages accumulate the cancer-causing toxins. A 1992 study found that dogs with short- and medium-length noses were more than twice as likely to develop lung cancer if a smoker lived in the home,5 most likely because shorter-length nasal passages don’t accumulate the cancer-causing toxins, allowing them to enter the dog’s lungs instead. 

Pet cats living in smoking households are more than twice as likely to develop malignant lymphoma (a type of cancer) compared to cats in nonsmoking households. The risk increased with the duration and amount of exposure, and cats with five or more years of exposure to secondhand smoke were more than three times as likely to develop malignant lymphoma.6

Have you ever had anyone tell you that your clothes smell like smoke? Well, it’s not the just the smell that can linger – it’s the potential toxins, too. If you smell smoke on your pet, consider the toxins that may be on your pet’s fur. Chances are, they’re ingesting them when they lick the toxins off during grooming.

Birds’ respiratory systems are particularly susceptible to airborne contaminants. Significantly higher concentrations of cotinine were found in the blood of birds living in smoking households compared to birds living in nonsmoking households.7 Birds with exposure to secondhand smoke can develop pneumonia, lung cancer, and problems with their eyes, skin, heart and fertility.

Smoking outside the home reduces the concentration of environmental tobacco smoke in the house, but doesn’t eliminate it. A 2005 study found that environmental tobacco levels in homes of smokers who smoked outdoors were still five to seven times higher than in households of nonsmokers.8

And it’s not just the secondhand smoke that poses a risk for your pets: discarded cigarette butts or other tobacco products left within reach of pets can cause gastrointestinal problems or even nicotine toxicity if your pet finds and eats them. 

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