The Dangers of Tobacco Products & Secondhand Smoke to Your Dog
If you are a smoker, you have probably heard from countless people about how dangerous tobacco is to your health. You’ve certainly been told (or researched for yourself) just how much of an impact smoking can have on your lungs and heart, not to mention the odor that follows you around after having a cigarette. Not only that, but secondhand smoke can have a tremendous impact on your friends and family.
While we do recommend you quit smoking, we are here to discuss why you should quit due to the effects on your dog’s health.
A Proven Impact
The effects of smoking have been under a magnifying glass since the 1990s, which has even included numerous studies about secondhand smoke on pets. In particular, these studies have found a variety of health issues brought on by owners smoking around their pets, including skin disease, breathing problems, and vision issues in birds, heightened allergic reactions in dogs, and a large increase in some types of cancer in both cats and dogs. For your dog, these cancers include those that develop in the sinuses, nose, and lungs.
It might not sound all that scary, but most dogs who contract cancer in their nose don’t live longer than a year after the cancer develops.
Seeing as secondhand tobacco smoke can have such a huge impact on people, it makes sense that it would affect your dog as well. Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service Veterinarian Dr. Carolynn MacAllister noted that, “There have been a number of scientific papers recently that have reported the significant health threat secondhand smoke poses to pets.” She went on to point out, “Secondhand smoke has been associated with oral cancer and lymphoma in cats, lung and nasal cancer in dogs, as well as lung cancer in birds.”
Unique Dangers for Pets
Like people, secondhand smoke experienced by dogs happens by breathing it in. However, unlike people, that’s not the only way tobacco use has a secondhand effect on your dog or cat.
Another secondhand risk for pets from tobacco comes from the way your animals groom themselves. As they lick themselves clean, they are consuming the smoke that settled in their fur. Regarding pets licking up this settled tobacco smoke, Dr. MacAllister said, “[They] constantly lick themselves while grooming, therefore they lick up the cancer-causing carcinogens that accumulate on their fur.” She continued, “This grooming behavior exposes the mucous membrane of their mouth to the cancer-causing carcinogens.”
Furthermore, if your dog is the type that seems to eat anything it finds, it is in even more dangerous if you use tobacco. As you might have guessed, this is also a problem for people who use smokeless tobacco products like snus, dip, and snuff. Discarded cigarette butts, spit out portion snus packets, and spit out wads of dip all pose a risk to an overzealous pup. Consuming any of these used-up products will not only increase your dog’s risk of stomach cancer over time, but she can immediately get very ill from eating any of those things. If your dog eats too many of those tobacco items over a short period, she could die before you even notice any sickness at all.
How Tobacco Impacts Pets
Including the methods described above, there are quite a few ways that tobacco -and nicotine- can adversely impact your dog, cat, or any other pet:
- Eating cigarette or cigar butts
- Eating smokeless tobacco
- Breathing in secondhand smoke
- Licking settled smoke from fur
- Eating nicotine patches or gum
- Drinking water that has cigarette/cigar butts
- Licking up spit from dip
By taking in tobacco through these ways, your pet is at risk of many different health problems. As detailed by Tobacco Free Utah, the health effects on pets of tobacco consumption include:
- Breathing problems
- Asthma-like symptoms
- Excessive saliva production
- Respiratory paralysis
- Feline lymphoma
- 1 to 5 cigarettes
- 1 (or less than one) cigar
- Teaspoon of dip
- Cardiac issues
Though there are many health problems listed here, the list isn’t comprehensive. In other words, there are even more health risks than those mentioned above.
If You Can’t Quit
Though we (obviously) recommend you quit smoking for your, your family’s, and your pet’s sakes, we also understand just how hard smoking cessation can be. For some people it can feel impossible. If you are in that camp, there are still some things you can do to minimize the impact of your tobacco use on your dog:
- Don’t smoke inside your home or garage
- Leave your dog inside when you step out to smoke
- Don’t smoke in your car
- Regularly clean out your ashtrays
- Keep tobacco products in a drawer or other out-of-reach area
- Don’t keep ashtrays on the ground or on a short table
- Don’t throw (or spit) used tobacco products on the ground
- Throw away nicotine patches or gum in an enclosed trash bin
- Do not discard in a small bathroom receptacle
- Use a closeable ashtray
- Don’t let friends or family smoke around your pet
- Seriously – try quitting
- Every time you try to quit smoking/using tobacco, the easier it gets to stay tobacco free
Just like you do what you can to keep smoke away from children (we hope!), treat smoking around your pets the exact same way. You will greatly reduce your dog’s health risks and increase her life expectancy.