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Health Information

Pets and Secondhand Smoke

You may be aware of tobacco’s impacts on people. But did you know it can also impact our pets? No, they aren’t smoking it. (At least as far as we’re aware.) Secondhand smoke, thirdhand smoke (residue left on floors, walls, clothes, etc.), and anything left out to be accidently eaten are what can cause issues in animals.

So, how does secondhand and thirdhand smoke impact pets?1,2


  • Have higher levels of cotinine (breakdown product of nicotine) in their blood
  • Increased risk of cancer of the nasal cavity and sinuses, particularly dogs with longer snouts (collies, greyhounds, etc.)
    • Longer snouts allow for chemicals to accumulate in their snouts
  • Dogs with short and medium length noses are 2x more likely to develop lung cancer
    • Chemicals don’t accumulate in their nasal passages
  • Dogs that already have breathing/lung issues can experience worse symptoms and chronic coughing


  • Over 2x more likely to develop malignant lymphoma
  • Cats with over 5 years of exposure to secondhand smoke were over 3x more likely to develop malignant lymphoma
  • When cats groom themselves, they ingest toxins, like chemicals from thirdhand smoke, that have accumulated on their bodies
  • Cats are 2-4 times more likely to develop oral squamous cell carcinoma, which is an aggressive type of mouth cancer
    • Even after treatment, less than 10% survive 1 year after diagnosis


  • Have higher levels of cotinine in their bloods
  • Can develop
    • Pneumonia
    • Lung Cancer
    • Issues with their eyes, skin, heart, and fertility

Guinea Pig

  • Can develop
    • Microscopic changes in their lungs similar to those seen in people who smoke
    • Emphysema
    • Pulmonary hypertension
    • High blood pressure
  • Can experience decreased weight gain from the toxic effects on their metabolism


  • Nicotine dissolves easily in water. If it ends up in the fish tanks’ water, it can poison fish
  • If poisoned, fish can experience
    • Muscle spams
    • Rigid fins
    • Loss of color
    • Death

Nicotine Poisoning

Pets can eat cigarette and cigar butts, drink e-cigarette liquid, and chew on nicotine refill canisters for e-cigarettes or the devices themselves. Regardless of how consumed, nicotine can be toxic at small doses. Fatal doses for cats and dogs have ranged from 20 to 100 milligrams. For context:

  • One regular cigarette can contain 9-30 mg of nicotine
  • One cigar can contain 15-40 mg of nicotine
  • Cigarette butts can contain 5-7 mg of nicotine
  • Regular e-cigarette cartridges can contain the same amount of nicotine as 2-3 cigarettes (18-90 mg)
  • Concentrated refill cartridges contain 10x as much or more (minimum: 90 mg)

Signs of nicotine poisoning in pets include:

  • Vomiting
  • Unsteadiness
  • Drooling
  • Tiredness
  • Fast heart rate
  • Shaking
  • Weakness
  • Seizures
  • Death

If your pet is experiencing any of these signs or you saw them ingest a tobacco product, get them immediate veterinary care or contact ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435.

Ways to Help Keep Your Pet Healthy

I Want to Quit

I Want to Help Someone Quit

Healthcare professionals

  • Ask, Advise, Refer to Quit Don’t Switch ( free, one-hour, on-demand course that touches on tools and strategies for conducting an effective brief tobacco intervention with those who use tobacco. This course is accredited for 1 hour of Continuing Medical Education (CME) by Rehoboth McKinley Christian Health Care Services (RMCHCS) and 1 Continuing Education Unit (CEU) by the American Association of Respiratory Care.
  • ACT to Address Youth Cessation ( free, one-hour, on-demand course that touches on ways to provide a brief intervention for teens who use tobacco. School personnel and community members in youth/adolescent supportive roles are welcome to take this as well.

Anyone Who Wants to Help

Make Your Home Smokefree

The American Lung Association in Alaska can help those affiliated with multiunit housing with concerns around smoking and secondhand smoke. Whether you’re a resident or a landlord, contact us at SmokefreeHousingAK@Lung.Org for free assistance.


  1. Be Smoke-free and Help Your Pets Live Longer, Healthier Lives | FDA
  2. Stop Smoking – For Your Health and Your Pets’ Health | American Veterinary Medical Association (

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