Smokefree Pets

Tobacco, Secondhand Smoke, and Pets

In recent years, studies have concluded that tobacco and secondhand smoke are not only dangerous to people, but also to pets. Specifically, with respect to secondhand smoke, researchers have found that exposure to tobacco smoke has been associated with certain cancers in dogs and cats; allergies in dogs; and eye and skin diseases and respiratory problems in birds, according to the researchers.

As stated by Dr. Carolynn MacAllister, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service veterinarian, "If smoking is that harmful to human beings, it would make sense that secondhand smoke would have an adverse effect on pets that live in the homes of smokers. There have been a number of scientific papers recently that have reported the significant health threat secondhand smoke poses to pets. 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."

"One reason cats are so susceptible to secondhand smoke is because of their grooming habits. Cats constantly lick themselves while grooming, therefore they lick up the cancer-causing carcinogens that accumulate on their fur," MacAllister said. "This grooming behavior exposes the mucous membrane of their mouth to the cancer-causing carcinogens."

"A recent study conducted at Colorado State University shows that there is a higher incidence of nasal tumors in dogs living in a home with secondhand smoke compared to dogs living in a smoke free environment," she said. "The increased incidence was specifically found among the long nosed breed of dogs. Shorter or medium nosed dogs showed higher rates for lung cancer." According to MacAllister, the longer nosed breeds of dogs have a great surface area in their noses that is exposed to the carcinogens. This also provides more area in which the carcinogens can accumulate. The carcinogens tend to build up on the mucous membranes of long nosed dogs so not as much reaches the lungs.

Pet birds also are victims of secondhand smoke. A bird's respiratory system is hypersensitive to any type of pollutant in the air. MacAllister said the most serious consequences of secondhand smoke exposure in birds are pneumonia or lung cancer. Other health risks include eye, skin, heart, and fertility problems.

Tobacco Free Utah summarizes how exposure to tobacco and smoking affects pets and what the health consequences are for pets so exposed:


  • By ingestion of cigarette or cigar butts which contain toxins.
  • By drinking water that contains cigar or cigarette butts (which can have high concentrations of nicotine).
  • By breathing secondhand smoke.
  • By ingestion of nicotine replacement gum and patches.

Health Effects:

  • Breathing problems in dogs and asthmatic-like symptoms in cats
  • Salivation
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Cardiac abnormalities
  • Respiratory difficulties and respiratory paralysis
  • Feline lymphoma in cats
  • Lung cancer in dogs
  • Nasal cancer in dogs
  • Death: from 1-5 cigarettes and from 1/3-1 cigar can be fatal if ingested.

The good news is that many smokers are becoming aware of this problem and are being motivated to quit smoking. In a study published in Tobacco Control, researchers led by Sharon M. Milberger, ScD, of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, found that 28.4% of smokers who participated in an online survey said learning that secondhand smoke was bad for their pet's health would motivate them to quit. And 8.7% said knowing the potential adverse health effects of secondhand smoke would spur them to ask their partners to quit.

Related Research | Smokefree News
Smith V.A.; McBrearty, A.R.; Watson, D.G.; Mellor, D.J.; Spence, S.; Knottenbelt, C., "Hair nicotine concentration measurement in cats and its relationship to owner-reported environmental tobacco smoke exposure," Journal of Small Animal Practice 58(1): 3-9, January 2017.
[n.a.], "Pets suffer from passive smoking, too," Veterinary Record 172(16): 413, April 20, 2013.
Milberger, S.M.; Davis, R.M.; Holm, A.L., "Pet owners' attitudes and behaviours related to smoking and second-hand smoke: a pilot study," Tobacco Control 18(2): 156-158, April 2009.
Rodrigues Roza, M.; Assis Viegas, C.A., "The dog as a passive smoker: effects of exposure to environmental cigarette smoke on domestic dogs," Nicotine & Tobacco Research 9(11): 1171-1176, November 2007.
Snyder, L.A.; Bertone, E.R.; Jakowski, R.M.; Dooner, S.; Jennings-Ritchie, J.; Moore, A.S., "p53 expression and environmental tobacco smoke exposure in feline oral squamous cell carcinoma," Veterinary Pathology 41: 209-214, 2004.
Bertone, E.R.; Snyder, L.A.; Moore, A.S., "Environmental tobacco smoke and risk of malignant lymphoma in pet cats," American Journal of Epidemiology 156(3): 268-273, 2002.
Reif, J.S.; Bruns, C.; Lower, K.S., "Cancer of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke in pet dogs," American Journal of Epidemiology 147(5): 488-492, 1998.
Cummins, D., "Pets and passive smoking," British Medical Journal 309: 960, October 8, 1994.
Reif, J.S.; Dunn, K.; Ogilvie, G.K.; Harris, C.K., "Passive smoking and canine lung cancer risk," Journal of Epidemiology 135(3): 234-239, 1992.

Related Research | Smokefree News

Veterinarian: E-cigs are bad for your pet's health
WWMT-TV - March 22, 2016

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNLE 3) - E-cigarettes were first branded as a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes, but we're learning more about the ...

E-Cigarettes Dangers: E-Cigarettes Allegedly Poisonous For Pets
Parent Herald - March 21, 2016

E-cigarette users should be careful in using their vaporizers when there are pets around. Experts claim that the smoke emitted from these e-cigarettes are very poisonous for cats and dogs. Wink News reported that the Pet Poison Helpline in Naples, Florida has noted a 400 percent increase in pet poisonings linked to e-cigarettes. "It's a very real ...

Secondhand Smoke and Pets
The Bark (blog) - January 21, 2016

... they found a gene that they believe acts as a marker of cell damage since it appears more often in dogs living in smoking homes versus non-smoking homes.

Your Cigarettes May Be Making Your Dog Fat and Sick: Study
American Kennel Club (blog) - January 4, 2016

Other scientists have reported that dogs who live with smokers have higher rates of atopic dermatitis (eczema) than those who live in smoke-free homes…

Be careful -- you could kill your cat
ConsumerAffairs - April 14, 2015

Say what you will but secondhand smoke kills and it can kill your cat. Your cat has teeny tiny lungs, so while you are huffing and puffing and blowing all that ...

Secondhand Smoke as Harmful to Pets as People
Associated Press - July 9, 2014

Secondhand smoke can cause lung and nasal cancer in dogs, malignant lymphoma in cats and allergy and respiratory problems in both animals, according to studies done at Tufts University's School of Veterinary Medicine in Massachusetts, Colorado State Unive

Does Smoking Tobacco at Home Make Your Dog's Respiratory Disease Worse?
Decoded Science - March 10, 2014

A Japanese study has found that dogs admitted to a veterinary hospital with chronic cough were much more likely to be from homes with smokers than from non-smoking households.

Passive smoking can harm pets
Pet Business World News - February 25, 2013

A spokesman said: “Animals are particularly susceptible to the dangers of passive smoking due to the fact that they constantly lick their fur, which holds the ...

VIDEO: Does Secondhand Smoke Affect Your Pets?
Huffington Post (blog), 2011-12-21

Much of the research surrounding secondhand smoke has focused on the effects on children. Around 40 percent of children regularly breathe it in, greatly increasing their risk of numerous health ailments, mental health problems and for becoming smokers themselves. ...

Secondhand Smoke Harms Pets - Melissa Breyer - September 13, 2011

Research from Colorado State University has found that secondhand tobacco smoke has a clear effect on dogs and their chance of disease. ...

Another reason to stop smoking: Your pets' health
USA Today - Sharon L. Peters - May 11, 2010

Amid growing evidence that secondhand smoke is causing cancers and possibly a range of other health problems in pets, many groups are intensifying efforts to encourage people to stop smoking — if not for their own sake, then for their animals'.

Veterinarians are redoubling efforts to warn smokers of the dangers to their pets, and smoking-cessation programs, including Utah Tobacco Prevention and Control, Breathe New Hampshire and, have posted fact sheets or printable fliers on their websites. Some groups are sharing information where animal aficionados gather, including at last month's Dachshund Dash in Oklahoma City, where the Oklahoma County Tobacco Use Prevention Coalition warned of secondhand smoke's dangers to dogs.

And the ASPCA last month linked up with American Legacy Foundation, a stop-smoking group, to spread the word to the pet lovers of the world. ...

Second-Hand Smoke Also Harms Pets
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KSAT-12 (San Antonio, TX), 2009-11-26
Rosenda Rios, KSAT 12 News Reporter

New evidence shows second-hand smoking can harm pets because of the smoke particles that fall on dogs and cats, increasing their risk for cancer.

"These are not animals. They are members of our family. These are our children, now, " said Dr. Stacy Renee Randall, DVM, of the South Texas Veterinary Center in Stone Oak.

Randall is well aware of the new studies on second-hand smoking on pets since she treats animals with cancer daily.

One thing Randall has noticed is that once pet lovers discover second-hand smoke is causing cancer in companion animals, many pet lovers begin to realize the dangers of smoking. ...

AVMA Encourages Pet Owners to Quit Smoking... for Their Pets
PR Newswire (press release) - November 17, 2009

SCHAUMBURG, Ill., Nov. 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is letting smokers know there is another good reason to take part in the Great American Smokeout on Nov. 19 -- the health of their pets.

"We're all aware of the scientific research that shows that people who smoke are more likely to get certain types of cancer and other diseases, but a lot of people don't know that the same goes for the pets of smokers," said Dr. Ron DeHaven, chief executive officer, in a video encouraging pet owners to kick the habit.

Lung cancer and nasal cancer are particularly threatening to dogs while cats that live with smokers are twice as likely to develop malignant lymphoma -- fatal to three out of four cats within a year -- and are more likely to get mouth cancer.

Dr. John Reif, professor at the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, says that dogs with short noses have double the risk of lung cancer and long-nosed dogs such as collies have two and half times greater risk of nasal cancer from secondhand smoke.

"Smoking is a very dangerous exposure for many human diseases -- cancer, cardiovascular disease and others -- and anything we can do to encourage people to stop smoking would be helpful," Dr. Reif said in a podcast encouraging pet owners to kick the habit.

"I'm hoping that by publicizing this information that more people will get involved in the Great American Smokeout this year, and the love of their pets will inspire them to finally kick the habit," Dr. DeHaven said.

For more information, visit or the AVMA Media Library at for this podcast -- Kick the Habit, for You and Your Pets -- and video -- The Great American Smokeout -- along with dozens of other podcasts, videos and audio news releases and public service announcements. The video is also posted on the AVMA's public video site, AVMA-TV, at ...

Tails Of The City : Secondhand smoke is toxic for pets too
San Francisco Chronicle blogs, 2009-04-14

The American Legacy Foundation is challenging pet parents to quit smoking during the month of April, which is also Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. Research shows there are no safe levels of exposure to secondhand smoke for humans -- and that goes for animals as well. One new study reveals that nearly 30 percent of pets live in a home with at least one smoker. . . .

According to a study published in the February 2009 edition of Tobacco Control, 28 percent of pet owners who smoke reported that knowing about the dangers of secondhand smoke to their pets would help motivate them to try to quit smoking.

To better protect our pets, the American Legacy Foundation and ASPCA recommend that smokers "take it outside" when they light up. The foundation also provides resources to support smokers in their decision to quit, including, an interactive website with free tools and tips to help smokers develop a personalized plan for kicking the habit -- for good!