How Does Tobacco Smoke Affect Animals?

By Graham Harper, Journalist specialized in animal welfare. July 3, 2017
How Does Tobacco Smoke Affect Animals?

Tobacco smoke also negatively affects animals as well as animals, but to what extent? We all know the health consequences that tobacco can cause smokers, however, are we aware of the harm it also causes in animals? Yes, our hairy companions are also considered passive smokers, as well as children and non-smokers who are often around smokers.

Cigarette smoke contains around 4,700 harmful substances, including nicotine and carbon monoxide, which are highly harmful to the body when inhaled. If you want to know all the information related to this problem and discover how tobacco smoke affects animals, keep reading this article from AnimalWised.

Animals as passive smokers

A passive smoker is someone who is indirectly inhaling or in contact with tobacco smoke and its harmful subtances. Even if you do not directly absorb cigarette smoke, a passive smoker can run the same risks as the smoker them-self, so pets are exposed to the same health problems as their smoking relatives.

In general, pets tend to stay with their human companions as much as they can. Dogs love to follow them everywhere and cats will frequently lie on them, for example. For animals, there is nothing better than sharing every second with your best friend. Therefore, living with smokers means they are totally exposed to all its consequences.

If the smoker is accustomed to smoking inside the home, the air in that environment may contain three times as much nicotine and carbon monoxide, and up to 50 times more carcinogenic substances than the tobacco smoke that the smoker himself inhales. This is because of the performance of the cigarette filter, which stores much of the harmful compounds. Thus, we see how tobacco smoke indirectly affects animals, but it is just as harmful.

How Does Tobacco Smoke Affect Animals? - Animals as passive smokers

Consequences of tobacco smoke in animals

If we analyze the respiratory system of animals, we see that it is very similar to ours and, therefore, it is not difficult to understand that they can suffer the same health problems as a human passive smoker and even the smoker them-self. As with humans, when animals are subjected to an environment filled with tobacco smoke, they end up inhaling it and their skin is in constant contact with all the harmful substances that it contains. This can generate serious damages in their body. Next, we will detail how tobacco smoke affects dogs, cats, and other pets like rabbits, guinea pigs, birds...


Irritations are the most common signs of passive smoking such as animals. In this way, we can observe cough, eye irritation, conjunctivitis in dogs and cats or itchy eyes. Also, it is not surprising that the same inhalation of tobacco smoke causes nausea in animals and a loss of appetite as a consequence. These symptoms may be aggravated when the animal lives in an environment where the smoker is accustomed to smoking in the home. When the spaces are kept closed, the concentration of toxic compounds are even greater.

Respiratory diseases

As with humans, animals considered passive smokers are more susceptible than the rest to respiratory problems due to the accumulation of toxic substances in their lungs, a fact that causes an alteration in the normal functioning of the respiratory organs. Bronchitis and asthma are the most common complications in pets in the long term. If not treated properly they can become serious and even fatal. For more information, see our article on the symptoms and treatment of asthma in cats.

Cancer of the lungs

This fatal disease that also affects animals can develop as a result of inhaling smoke over an extended period of time. Thus, when we see how tobacco affects animals, we see how cases of cancer are becoming more noticeable.

When an accumulation of toxic compounds in the lungs occurs, the genetic material of the cells can undergo alterations. This causes a disordered and uncontrolled growth and leads to the formation of malignant tumors. In this way, we see how lung cancer is the most common, however, it is not the only one that can be generated.

Chronic sinusitis

Chronic sinusitis is one of the most frequent pathologies among smokers due to the destruction of respiratory mucosal cells. This is a result of the inhalation of toxic compounds of tobacco, a fact that is also reflected in pets considered as passive smokers. As the respiratory mucosa of animals is more sensitive than ours, they are even more susceptible than smokers themselves to develop it and experience complications that this condition entails.

Cardiovascular disorders

Just as a smoker tends to develop cardiovascular disease from smoking, their pets can do so. Over time, the heart finds it more and more difficult to pump blood correctly and the arteries become less elastic, causing alterations that can lead to heart and/or gallbladder failure. These consequences can be complicated and be favored by other factors like the advanced age of the animal.

How to prevent tobacco smoke from harming animals

Now that you know how tobacco smoke affects dogs, cats, and other pets, you'll probably want to know how to prevent the onset of the health problems mentioned above. Well, the best thing would be to end the cause directly by quitting smoking. Of course, this will improve both the health of the animals and the smoker them-self. However, if this alternative can not be carried out, it is best to keep animals as far away from tobacco smoke as possible, as well as smoke in open and ventilated spaces, avoiding them within the home.

Another important factor to take into account to avoid that the tobacco affects to the dogs and cats, is the correct maintenance of furniture. Toxic substances from smoke can accumulate on surfaces such as carpets or the sofa, with which animals have a direct contact through their skin and licking. So, keeping them completely clean and smoke-free is imperative to prevent the development of problems cited in the previous section.

If you are a smoker, do not hesitate and protect your best friend by offering the best care and, above all, by ensuring that you inhale as little tobacco as possible or none at all. Remember that their health is at stake, and yours is also at stake.

How Does Tobacco Smoke Affect Animals? - How to prevent tobacco smoke from harming animals

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to How Does Tobacco Smoke Affect Animals?, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

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