It’s well-known that smoking cigarettes and the resulting second-hand smoke can cause serious harm to human health. However, you should be aware that it’s just as harmful to smoke cigarettes around animals as it is the rest of your family.
Author: Archy Davidson
Last updated: March 09, 2020
“According to the NHS 1, over 80% of second-hand smoke is odourless and invisible, so regardless of how careful you think you’re being, you could still be putting your friends, family, and pets at risk of the detrimental effects it can cause. It doesn’t matter if you have all the windows and doors open, the residue from the smoke will still settle on the surfaces in your home if you are smoking inside. Pets are members of your family who need protection from potential harm just like children do, so it’s essential to consider them when you choose to light up.”
In humans, smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke can lead to conditions including cancer, bronchitis, pneumonia, and meningitis, and various others.
Pets can also develop cancer, respiratory problems, allergies, and numerous other conditions from being exposed to smoke. This can occur from:
Inhaling second-hand smoke – this has the same harmful effects on pets as it does on humans.
Grooming or licking fur that contains chemicals from being in contact with cigarette smoke. This is particularly common in cats.
Eating nicotine patches/e-liquid/gum – if you’re trying to quit and using these methods to help you do so, make sure to keep them out of reach of your pets because they are highly sensitive to nicotine.
Eating cigar/cigarette butts – animals are curious, and there’s a chance that they could eat discarded cigarette butts when left unattended, especially if you smoke inside and leave ashtrays within their reach. This is very harmful because cigarette butts contain high levels of nicotine, tar, and various other toxins.
Drinking contaminated water – water is essential to all life, and your pets need fresh, clean water available at all times. Cigarette smoke, ash, and butts can contaminate your animal’s water supply, which can lead to serious health problems
According to the American Cancer Society 2, there are two types of second-hand smoke:
You probably know how harmful smoking is to your health, and that it also endangers the health of those around you. Whenever you smoke, the second-hand smoke that you exhale, and the emissions from your lit cigarette, are inhaled by the people and animals surrounding you – especially when you choose to smoke inside. These people and pets are unwillingly subject to the dangers of smoking by inhaling toxins in the air they breathe.
Therefore, if you must smoke, make sure to do it outside and away from other people and animals.
According to the FDA 3, third-hand smoke refers to the particles, dust, and residue caused by smoking tobacco that end up on surfaces like carpets, rugs, furniture, skin, clothes, and more.
Animals tend to spend a lot of time on the floor, meaning particles released when you smoke that settle on the ground or in carpets can get into your pets’ fur. Licking and sniffing owners’ skin that is saturated with chemicals from smoking can also be incredibly harmful, and the same goes for eating off of the floor.
Rolling around on the floor, touching furniture and blankets, rubbing against walls, and sleeping on their owners’ laps are all normal behaviours for pets. These actions become harmful to their health when their home and owner are covered in smoking residue.
All pets are susceptible to the effects of smoking, and knowing the specific risks it poses to your pet(s) is imperative in preventing any potential harm.
Dogs are inherently loyal and spend much of their time with their owners in the home. If you smoke around them, or your clothes and furniture harbour cigarette smoke and toxins, harmful chemicals are likely to transfer to your pet.
The most common issue that smoking causes dogs is cancer. According to the RSPCA, the size of your dog’s snout can help indicate where the disease is more likely to develop:
Obesity is also more common in dogs that live in a smoking household than those in non-smoking homes. Just like in humans, obesity can lead to many other harmful and life-threatening conditions.
Cats are also negatively impacted by second-hand smoke. Their most significant risk factor is licking up the chemicals that end up on their fur from being around smokers since they spend a lot of time grooming themselves (PetMD 4 says that it’s typical for cats to spend up to 50% of their waking time grooming). Ingesting chemicals while cleaning their fur can cause mouth cancer.
According to Vet Street 5, cats can develop lymphoma (the second most common tumour found in cats) from living around smokers. Studies have shown cats who live in a smoking environment are more likely to end up with the illness than those living in non-smoking households. Squamous cell carcinoma is another type of cancer that is common in cats surrounded by smokers.
Air pollution, including second-hand smoke, can cause severe issues for the respiratory health of small animals such as rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, rats, and more. One study showed rabbits from a smoking household are more prone to heart conditions than those from a smoke-free home.
The majority of small animals are naturally prey animals – so they do their best to hide it when they’re sick, as this is what they do to protect themselves in the wild. You may not notice any symptoms of illness in your pet, but this does not mean they are not harmed by smoking.
Rabbits and rodents, like cats, also spend a lot of time grooming their fur. Smoking around them means that harmful chemicals end up trapped in their coats, which are then ingested when they clean themselves. As well as this, ash and toxic particles can end up on their bedding and food.
Considering that rabbits and guinea pigs eat the straw and hay that makes up their bedding, smoking around your small pet’s hutch is a significant health risk. Hay makes up over 80% of their diet, so making sure it’s safe for them to consume is a must for overall health.
According to the PDSA 6, birds have particularly sensitive respiratory tracts, meaning that they’re exceptionally adversely affected by breathing smokey air. Birds have a more efficient respiratory system than mammals, meaning oxygen circulates faster around their bodies. This means that any toxins and chemicals inhaled along with second-hand smoke also enter their bloodstreams faster than other animals.
Fish are at risk when cigarette smoke dissolves into the water in their tank. This causes their environment to become toxic – everything they consume and interact with is potentially harmful.
Reptiles are also at risk as they have relatively small lungs that are not able to handle the harmful impacts of second-hand smoke.
Nicotine poisoning in pets is extremely dangerous. Animals are likely to show symptoms within just one hour of consumption. Poisoning can occur as a result of your pet ingesting cigarette/cigar butts, e-liquids/cartridges, nicotine gum, chewing tobacco, nicotine patches, etc.
Here are the signs to watch for if you think your pet could have nicotine poisoning:
If you believe your pet has ingested a nicotine product and is exhibiting any of the above symptoms, contact your country’s poison helpline and your vet immediately for further guidance.
Your vet can give you advice to help you make your pet vomit and expel some of the toxic material before veterinary help can arrive. Your pet should then be checked out by a professional vet to make sure no further treatment is needed.
To prevent your pet from suffering from nicotine poisoning, keep cigarettes, vapes, e-liquids, and all other nicotine products out of reach of your pets. This is the best way to keep them from accidentally ingesting any.
Encourage your friends and family who smoke and vape to do the same, especially if they live with animals or children.
Second-hand smoke and resultant health risks are widely researched and documented. However, the same is not yet true for vaping. Vaping is a relatively new concept, and a lot of research still needs to be done into its effects on both humans and animals.
It is thought that both people and pets can suffer from allergic reactions to some ingredients in e-liquids. Propylene glycol (PG), a popular ingredient in the product, is known to be particularly harmful to cats if ingested.
While it is preferable to vape outside and away from pets, the effects of vaping have been shown in various studies to be less detrimental than smoking. The NHS 7 and Public Health England 8 claim that vaping is a whopping 95% safer than smoking for humans.
A landmark study 9 funded by Cancer Research UK provided evidence to support claims that vaporisers and other e-cigarettes cause significantly less harm compared to smoking. Vaping liquids and vapour were found to contain fewer toxic and carcinogenic chemicals known to cause cancer and other illnesses.
While vaping is regarded as a safer alternative to smoking, it’s best to vape outside and away from your pets wherever possible to reduce the risk to them, your family members, and roommates. Side effects that can befall people and animals who inhale second-hand vapour include allergic reactions and respiratory issues.
While there is no concrete evidence available to prove that vaping is or isn’t hazardous to pets, it’s always best to be cautious. Your pet could be sensitive to second-hand vapour and the residue it leaves on carpets, furniture, your clothing, and more.
If you smoke or vape and you’re worried about keeping your pet safe, here are some tips that should help:
If the worst-case scenario occurs and your pet or child accidentally ingests nicotine, it’s vital to seek professional help immediately.
Call your country’s poison helpline and then get them to a hospital or vet clinic quickly. In the UK, the NHS recommends 10 calling 111 for people who could be suffering with nicotine poisoning but aren’t exhibiting severe symptoms. In case of an emergency, call 999 or go immediately to the nearest A&E department.
While patients can self-detox through vomiting if they ingested a small amount, the only way to make sure there has been no severe damage is to have them thoroughly checked over by a doctor or vet.
The symptoms of nicotine poisoning vary, but the important thing is to pay close attention and remedy the issue as fast as you can. The quicker you can get your pet/child to a professional, the less likely it is that there will be detrimental long-term effects.
Being a responsible pet owner means always doing everything you can to make sure your pet is happy and healthy. From making sure they have clean water available to giving them love and affection, there are many ways to make sure your pet is safe and content.
Pet owners may even alter their behaviours and actions in some cases to ensure their pet’s ultimate quality of life. A survey 11 posted on WebMD revealed that 28.4% of smokers who took part said learning about the harmful effects that smoking can have on their pets would motivate them to quit. 16% said they’d ask their partners to quit smoking to protect their pets from second and third-hand smoke, while 24% said they’d tell their partners that they must smoke outside.
Many people who quit smoking move on to vaping to help them with their oral fixation and nicotine cravings. Vaping is less harmful than smoking; however, pet owners who decide to start vaping also need to be very careful. Make sure all e-liquids, which can taste and smell alluring to animals, are kept where pets cannot access them. Always take caution when vaping around pets.
Putting pets in danger is the last thing a caring, responsible owner wants to do. That’s why knowing the potential risks your behaviour causes to your pets is so important. Once you know the potential dangers that smoking and vaping poses to animals, you can take the proper steps to prevent harm. The best way to show your pet love is to provide a safe and comfortable environment where your choices won’t cause them any damage.