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Maryland Dog Magazine

Tobacco Use Affects Pet Health

May 22, 2016 03:44PM
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Tobacco Use Affects Pet Health

The effects of smoking on human health are widely known and most people who use tobacco know the risks. However, smoking doesn’t just affect the person who smokes.  Children and even pets who share the environment are at risk for the same health outcomes as the people who use tobacco. Studies show that dogs living in homes with smokers have significantly higher exposure to secondhand smoke which can lead to cancer. Secondhand smoke is defined

Studies show that dogs living in homes with smokers have significantly higher exposure to secondhand smoke which can lead to cancer. Secondhand smoke is defined as smoke that’s exhaled or escapes into the air and can be inhaled by non-smokers, including pets.  Interestingly enough, the muzzle length plays a role in the location of the cancer. Cigarette smoke exposure leads to an increased risk of cancer of the nasal cavity and sinuses of dogs with longer snouts (such as collies and greyhounds) likely because longer snouts accumulate cancer causing carcinogens. Dogs with short or medium length snouts are at higher risk for lung cancer because the cancer-causing toxins don’t accumulate in the nasal passages but go directly to the lungs instead.

Dogs aren’t the only animals at risk. Cats living in households with a smoker are also more likely to develop cancer and this risk increases with the duration and amount of exposure to secondhand smoke. Cats with five or more years of exposure were more than three times as likely to develop cancer. Even birds are at risk, with those exposed to secondhand smoke developing pneumonia, lung cancer, and problems with their eyes, skin, and fertility at increased rates.

The smell of smoke that lingers even when not smoking can indicate the presence of thirdhand smoke, or cigarette toxins that can remain on furniture, carpeting, and even a pet’s toys and fur following the extinguishing of a cigarette. Pets may ingest these toxins when playing with toys or grooming themselves. Furthermore, the risks to children and pets aren’t eliminated by smoking outdoors instead of indoors. A recent study found that environmental tobacco levels in homes of smokers who smoke outdoors were still five to seven times higher than in households of nonsmokers. Pets living with smokers, regardless of whether the person smokes indoors or outdoors, are more likely to suffer from respiratory disease (asthma and bronchitis), allergies, eye and skin disease, and cancers than pets in a smoke-free home.

Additionally, it’s not just secondhand or third-hand smoke that poses a risk to pets: discarded cigarette butts or other tobacco products left within reach of pets can cause gastrointestinal problems or even nicotine toxicity if a pet finds and eats them.

For those looking for help quitting tobacco, the Maryland Tobacco Quitline (1-800-QUIT NOW) is a free, evidence-based counseling service funded by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The Quit Coaches are highly trained professionals who provide live tobacco cessation counseling services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Tobacco users 13 years and older are eligible for services and those 18 years and older can choose between a phone- or web-based services, get text message support, and receive a free twelve week supply of nicotine patches and gum, while supplies last. 2016 marks the Quitline’s 10th anniversary with service to over 82,000 highly satisfied Marylanders.

For more information about the Maryland Tobacco Quitline, visit To enroll in the program, tobacco users can call 1-800-784-8669 (1-800-QUIT-NOW) or visit

REFERENCE: Adapted from the following article with permission: American Veterinary Medical Association. Stop Smoking – For Your Health and Your Pets’ Health. Available at: Accessed Mar 29, 2016.

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