The effects of passive smoking on people are well known, to the extent that smoking is now banned in many public places with the exception of designated smoking areas. This is designed to reduce the public’s exposure to the chemicals in cigarette smoke and avoid illness caused by these chemicals in people who do not smoke at all. Studies have been done into the effects of passive smoking on our pets, and the results show that they too are at risk of becoming unwell from exposure to second hand smoke. Dogs and cats not only breathe in the smoke, but they also lick the chemicals off their fur. The effects can be very serious.
Cigarette smoke affects the lining of the airways in such a way as to cause coughing. If your pet already has a respiratory condition that is characterized by coughing, then smoke can make it worse and even adversely affect their breathing.
Smoke can damage the DNA in the cells of the mouth and throat of dogs. There seems to be a connection between exposure to tobacco smoke and cancer in the nasal cavity, but no convincing links between smoke and lung cancer in this species. Most dogs have a longer muzzle than people that may filter the chemicals in smoke, and this could be the reason for the increase in nasal cancer but not lung cancer in dogs associated with passive smoking.
Cats do not escape the risks either. Passive smoking could increase their risk of developing a type of tumor called lymphoma, as well as squamous cell carcinoma in their mouth. This may be because cats lick their fur to keep themselves clean and this would expose their mouths to the chemicals in the smoke.
Some dogs will eat cigarettes and butts that are not disposed of properly, and this can make them very ill. Cats usually have a more discerning palate and are not likely to do this. The toxic amount of tobacco depends on the size of your dog but you can start to see symptoms after they have eaten one whole cigarette or four cigarette butts. Symptoms to watch out for include trembling, vomiting and collapse.
This could be enough to encourage any pet parent who smokes to quit. Nevertheless, you will still need to be careful if you choose to use an electronic cigarette to break your habit. These e-cigarettes deliver a dose of vaporized nicotine to ease withdrawal and allow the smoker to continue the actions of smoking. The e-cigarette and its refill cartridges contain liquid that is made up of nicotine and other chemicals. Pups have been known to chew on these and the dose of nicotine they ingest is much larger than if they just chewed on a tobacco cigarette. Depending on your dog’s size, this could prove fatal.
Passive smoking can be as harmful to pets as it is to people. For their sake, keep them away from tobacco smoke. If this information has encouraged you to give up smoking, then make sure any e-cigarettes and their refills are kept well out of your pet’s reach. For those who smoke cannabis, we have also put together a helpful guide on marijuana toxicity in pets.