The Hidden Risks of Secondhand Smoke to Your Beloved Pets

Dogs, cats, birds, and even fish are actually all vulnerable to the effects. It should be common knowledge that cigarette smoke affects not just your own body, however, the health of everyone in your vicinity. Secondhand smoke can cause some of the exact same devastating health effects of cigarettes as those who are actually smoking them.

However, what you might not be thinking about is how secondhand smoke affects your pets. Your dog, cat, and even your fish can be affected by secondhand (and even third-hand) cigarette smoke in ways that you likely never expected, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Just like it does with humans, secondhand smoke can affect the respiratory symptoms of pets. For just an example, short-nosed dogs (like pugs or bulldogs) in smoking households are at a higher risk of lung cancer.

On the other hand, long-nosed dog breeds who are exposed to tobacco smoke have a doubled risk of getting nose cancer. That’s because dogs use their noses much like a filter, so long-nosed dogs trap a lot of the toxins in cigarettes within their nose instead of the lungs, increasing their risk of nose cancer.

Secondhand smoke has been proven to increase the risk for other types of cancers in our pets as well. Cats who live with heavy smokers are three times more likely to come down with lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphocytes (cells in the immune system).

In addition, another risk for pets is third-hand smoke—the tobacco smoke that manages to stick to carpet, furniture, your skin, and their fur (or feathers). For example, dogs licking the skin of someone who smokes are ingesting the sticky, stubborn, toxic residue from the cigarette smoke. Since cats frequently bathe their own fur with their tongues, cats in smoking households actually have two to four times the risk of mouth cancer.

It’s not only dogs and cats at risk: Birds, for example, are actually extremely sensitive to air pollution. In addition to breathing in secondhand smoke, birds also “preen” their feathers (like how cats lick their fur) and ingest third-hand smoke. Pet birds who are living in smoking households have a higher risk of pneumonia, skin or eye problems, lung cancer, or sinus troubles.

Even fish may be at risk. Airborne nicotine may contaminate fish tanks, which essentially can poison the fish. This may result in muscle spasms, loss of color, rigid fins, and even certain death for your pet fish.

Finally, nicotine poisoning may be a direct threat to dogs in particular, who are prone to eating just about anything. Dogs who happen to ingest cigarettes may need immediate medical attention.

Quitting smoking is unquestionably difficult, however, your pet’s health should be a good motivator.