Stop Smoking – For Your Health and Your Pets’ Health

No Smoking You don’t need us to tell you the harm that smoking can do to your body, or the risks posed to children and others from secondhand smoke. But perhaps you’re unaware of the harm it can be doing to your pets. Because pets share our environments, they also share our environmental exposures – including tobacco smoke.1,2
Dogs living in homes with smokers have significantly higher levels of cotinine (a breakdown product of nicotine) in their blood, indicating exposure to nicotine through secondhand smoke.3A 1998 study found that environmental exposure to tobacco smoke resulted in an increased risk of cancer of the nasal cavity and sinuses of dogs, particularly those with longer snouts (such as collies, greyhounds and many other popular breeds); and the more packs the smoker smoked, the higher the dog’s risk of cancer.4  This is likely because their longer nasal passages accumulate the cancer-causing toxins. A 1992 study found that dogs with short- and medium-length noses were more than twice as likely to develop lung cancer if a smoker lived in the home,5 most likely because shorter-length nasal passages don’t accumulate the cancer-causing toxins, allowing them to enter the dog’s lungs instead. 
Pet cats living in smoking households are more than twice as likely to develop malignant lymphoma (a type of cancer) compared to cats in nonsmoking households. The risk increased with the duration and amount of exposure, and cats with five or more years of exposure to secondhand smoke were more than three times as likely to develop malignant lymphoma.6
Have you ever had anyone tell you that your clothes smell like smoke? Well, it’s not the just the smell that can linger – it’s the potential toxins, too. If you smell smoke on your pet, consider the toxins that may be on your pet’s fur. Chances are, they’re ingesting them when they lick the toxins off during grooming.
Birds’ respiratory systems are particularly susceptible to airborne contaminants. Significantly higher concentrations of cotinine were found in the blood of birds living in smoking households compared to birds living in nonsmoking households.7 Birds with exposure to secondhand smoke can develop pneumonia, lung cancer, and problems with their eyes, skin, heart and fertility.
Smoking outside the home reduces the concentration of environmental tobacco smoke in the house, but doesn’t eliminate it. A 2005 study found that environmental tobacco levels in homes of smokers who smoked outdoors were still five to seven times higher than in households of nonsmokers.8
And it’s not just the secondhand smoke that poses a risk for your pets: discarded cigarette butts or other tobacco products left within reach of pets can cause gastrointestinal problems or even nicotine toxicity if your pet finds and eats them.

Listen to our podcast: Kick the Habit, for You and Your Pets
If you smoke, please consider quitting – if not for your health, then for your family’s health and your pets’ health. Looking for inspiration or resources to help you make the commitment to quit? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have great resources for you and the American Cancer Society also provides resource and sponsors the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday of November.

What about e-cigs and vaping?

Although vaporizers, e-cigarettes, e-pens, e-pipes, e-hookahs and e-cigars don’t contain tobacco or emit smoke like traditional cigarettes, cigars and pipes, they still pose significant risk to pets because of the nicotine levels. Regular cartridges can contain nicotine levels equivalent to 2 or 3 cigarettes, and concentrated refill cartridges contain 10 times as much nicotine or more; if a pet ingests the contents of the cartridge, potentially fatal nicotine toxicity can occur within 15-30 minutes of exposure. The scents and flavors of the liquid may be attractive to pets, increasing their risk of ingestion.

Signs of nicotine toxicity include excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, agitation, increased respiratory rate, disorientation, tremors, seizures, heart abnormalities, paralysis, coma and death. If you know or suspect that your pet has ingested a cartridge, seek immediate veterinary care. Contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435 (a charge may apply).

If you choose to use these products, take precautions to keep your pet safe:

  • Keep all cartridges and nicotine devices away from pets and children.
  • Don’t use the devices around your pets if possible; if you do, make sure there is proper ventilation.
  • If you suspect or know that your pet has been exposed to the liquid, contact your veterinarian or Animal Poison Control immediately. Do not wait for signs of toxicity to develop.  
  1. Backer LC, Grindem CB, Corbett WT et al. Pet dogs as sentinels for environmental contamination. Toxicology and Risk Assesment Approaches 2001; Volume 274: Pages 161–169. Available at: Accessed Nov 11, 2012.
  2. Reif JS. Animals as Sentinels for Environmental and Public Health. Public Health Rep. 2011; 126(Suppl 1): 50–57. Available at: Accessed Nov 11, 2012.
  3. Bertone-Johnson ER, Procter-Gray E, Gollenberg AL, et al. Environmental tobacco smoke and canine urinary cotinine level. Environ Res. 2008;106(3):361-4. Available at: Accessed Nov 11, 2012.
  4. Reif JS, Bruns C, Lower KS. Cancer of the Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinuses and Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke in Pet Dogs. Am J Epidemiol 1998; 147:488–92. Available at: Accessed Nov 11, 2012.
  5. Reif JS, Dunn K, Ogilvie GK et al. Passive smoking and canine lung cancer risk. Am J Epidemiol 1992 Feb 1;135(3):234-9. Available at: Accessed Nov 11, 2012.
  6. Environmental Tobacco Smoke and Risk of Malignant Lymphoma in Pet Cats; Am J Epidemiol 2002; 156:268–73. Bertone ER, Snyder LA, Moore AS.
  7. Cray C, Roskos J, Zielezienski-Roberts K. Detection of Cotinine, a Nicotine Metabolite, in the Plasma of Birds Exposed to Secondhand Smoke. J Avian Med Surg 2005; 19(4):277-279. Available at: Accessed Nov 11, 2012.
  8. Matt GE, Quintana PJE, Hovell MF et al.  Households contaminated by environmental tobacco smoke: sources of infant exposures. Tob Control 2004;13:29-3. Available at: Accessed Nov 11, 2012.
  9. Hackendahl NC, Sereda CW. The dangers of nicotine ingestion in dogs. Vet Medicine, 2004; p. 218-224. Available at Accessed Oct 26, 2016. 
  10. Wismer, TA. A warning to pet owners who use E-cigarettes. Vetstreet; June 15, 2015. Available at Accessed Oct. 26, 2016.