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Dog Health: Can Dogs get Sick from Passive Smoking?

Updated on March 14, 2012

Cigarettes may hurt your canine companion


Are dogs susceptible to disease derived from exposure to passive smoking?

With humans developing cancers and other debilitating disorders from the exposure to passive smoking, it makes perfectly sense to be concerned about our canine companions. After all, dogs whose owners smoke are quite vulnerable because they ultimately have no other choice. Eager to be near their beloved owners, and equipped with that unconditional love that makes them so special, dogs must take it or leave. And of course, most dogs as loyal companions, will choose to snooze as close as they can get to their owner's feet, even if this means being exposed to that odd looking stick that emanates that horrible smell.

While dogs are thankfully not likely to frequent that trendy pub or disco surrounded by clouds of smoke, they sure get their dose of tobacco smoke from their owners. Determining if such exposure is harmful enough to cause disease, or worse, potentially deadly conditions such as cancer, requires a look at some studies.

What Studies Reveal About Exposure to Tobacco in Dogs

Several studies were conducted on this topic and revealed not much good news. According to the ASPCA, research demonstrated that dogs who shared their living quarters with smokers, had a significantly higher risk for developing cancer of the nose and sinuses. Unfortunately, dogs who develop nasal cancer have a poor prognosis and tend to survive for less than one year.

Another study conducted by the Colorado State University revealed that dogs equipped with short to medium length noses (brachycephalic and mesocephalic breeds) were more likely to develop lung cancer from cigarette exposure compared to dogs with long noses (dolichocephalic). The reason for this is that it appears that dogs with long noses have a more efficient air filtration system compared to dogs with shorter noses. However, this same fact predisposed dogs with longer noses to increased risks for nasal cancer since the carcinogens tend accumulate in the surface area of their noses rather than their lungs, explains Dr. Carolynn MacAllister with the Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service veterinarian.

More incentive to stop smoking!

So there you have it, another good reason to kiss that cigarette butt good bye! The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reveals that about 28 percent of smokers who own pets would be willing to try to quit smoking if they realized that secondhand smoking put their pets at risk for disease. And this applies to owners of other pets as well, indeed, McCallister claims exposure to passive smoke predisposed cats to oral cancer and lymphoma, dogs to lung and nasal cancer, birds to lung cancer!

People participating in this research were also willing to ask people that shared their household to to quit (8.7 percent) or at least, to not smoke indoors (14.2 percent).

However, inhaling smoke is not the only danger pets face when their owners smoke, indeed there are other less know risks that smokers may have never realized. For instance, not many smokers are aware of the fact that ingesting cigarette butts can cause nicotine toxicity in dogs. And most dogs will find them tasty enough to wolf them down. According to veterinarian Dawn Ruben: "The toxic level of nicotine in dogs is 5 milligrams of nicotine per pound of body weight. The butt of a cigarette can contain from 4 to 8 milligrams depending on the length of the butt and the content of the original cigarette. Cigarette butts have a deceptively large amount of tobacco relative to the size of the butt as smoking concentrates some of the nicotine in the cigarette butt."

As seen, there are numerous good reasons to quit smoking or at least smoke outside. It is a well known fact that pets help improve our lives in many ways, and the benefits of quitting smoking may be added to the many others.


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      Allison 5 years ago

      Its not just the 2nd hand smoke either that can make them sick the third hand smoke to.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 5 years ago from USA

      You are so right! dogs get sick from passive smocking and exposing them to it, is so wrong! thank you for commenting!

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      jessica318 5 years ago

      i do not like the fact that people smoke around animals! i am an animal lover and when i grow up i want to be a vet... i really hope that people will try to stop smoking near animals! it makes me so mad but sad too!!!!!!

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 5 years ago from USA

      Natashalh, I do too especially now that I know what smoke can do to them!

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      I always feel so bad for pets that live with smokers.