How Second-hand Smoking Affects Pets

Parrot Smoking

Are pets affected by cigarette smoke?

Smoker or nonsmoker, it’s more than likely that you’re aware of the severe ramifications that cigarettes have on our health, not to mention those around us.

There’s overwhelming evidence of smoking's adverse effects on humans, however, did you know that frequent passive smoking can proportionality impact our pet’s wellbeing, too? From dogs to fish, cigarettes contain destructive chemicals which can make their way into the lungs of our beloved pets and settle on their fur, feathers and scales.

How does second-hand smoke severely affect each type of pet?

While some pets are more affected by tobacco than others, the deadly toxins found in smoking are harmful to every animal, no matter their species. Here’s how passive smoking affects pets in your home:


When dogs are frequently exposed to high levels of second-hand smoke, they can become susceptible to a number of health conditions, including respiratory illnesses such as chronic asthma and bronchitis. Passive smoking can even prove to worsen existing medical problems found in dogs, such as skin conditions. 

Over time, second-hand smoking may also predispose dogs to life-threatening diseases, including lung cancer and nose cancer. In particular, canine companions with long nasal passages (i.e Labradors, Dobermans and Collies) are known to be at a higher risk of nose cancer, while dogs with characteristically small snouts (i.e Shih Tzu, Pugs) are more prone to develop lung cancer. 


Similarly to dogs, regular inhalation of chemicals from passive smoking can put our feline friends at a greater risk of conditions such as bronchitis and asthma. In some cases, cats can even develop the blood cancer Lymphoma, with the risk of this illness doubled in smoker households. Due to their inherent grooming behaviour, cats may inadvertently ingest harmful toxins from their fur, which can further increase the risk of these illnesses. 


Smaller domestic animals such as hamsters, mice, rats and rabbits can also suffer from the effects of second-hand smoke, with risks of vascular disease and emphysema, a lung condition which causes shortness of breath, being the most common health consequences for our miniature-sized pets. 


Research has discovered that birds have unique respiratory tracts which allow them to absorb oxygen more efficiently than mammals. However, this unfortunately means that birds are highly sensitive to airborne pollutants, including nicotine. Common illnesses caused by passive smoking for birds include respiratory problems such as pneumonia, and even lung cancer. Feathered pets that are situated in smoky environments are also at a higher risk of eye, skin, heart and even fertility health problems. 


Fish may reside in water, but this doesn’t prevent harmful particles from invading their aquatic homes. Fish which are homed in open-top tanks are at a greater risk to the effects of passive smoking, where even small toxic particles can easily dissolve into the water and cause fatal poisoning. 

Signs that your pet is being affected by passive smoking

As a pet owner, you’ll know your animal companion better than anyone. So, if you’re a heavy smoker and they’ve been acting out of character, it could mean they are suffering from passive smoking. The most common symptoms for nicotine poisoning in pets include:

  • Lethargy or tiredness is one of the most common signs of prolonged passive smoking exposure in pets. 
  • Pets with nicotine poisoning also often produce excess amounts of drool, and may cough or appear to have difficulty breathing. 
  • The other key symptoms of nicotine poisoning to look out for include vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures and pupil constriction. 
  • Chronic scratching, biting and licking can be symptoms of skin conditions that are caused by passive smoking. Make sure to also look out for red patches of the skin, as well as bleeding sores or lesions which your pet may be aggressively itching to relieve pain. 

Third-hand Smoking and Pets

Many smokers are aware of the damaging effects that their habit is causing on their pets, and may choose to open windows, use air filters, or take smoking breaks outside every now and then. However safe these tactics may seem, there is no definitive risk-free level for your pets from second-hand and third-hand smoking. 

What is third-hand smoking?


Third-hand smoking is caused by dust, residue and particulates (also known as atmospheric aerosol particles) which build up over time from second-hand smoke, eventually becoming irremovable from the home. Tobacco contains over 5,000 different toxic chemicals, which land on your pet’s coats as well as surfaces within the home, such as clothes, carpets, and curtains. 

How does third-hand smoking affect my pet?

By licking their own fur, claws, and coming into contact with tobacco-tainted furniture in and around the home, pets can ingest harmful substances and put themselves at further risk of the health issues outlined in the above sections. Research from claims that third-hand smoke may even be as damaging to our pet’s health as second-hand smoke. 

How to successfully quit smoking 

Finding the motivation and taking the first step towards a smoke-free lifestyle is no easy task, so you may wish to reach out to professionals for advice, or join support groups where you will be able to express the ups and downs of your quitting journey. 

The best course of action you can take for yourself, your loved ones, and your pets, is to make the switch from smoking to vaping today. According to a groundbreaking cross-sectional report from PHE in 2015, it was revealed that the use of electronic cigarettes as a cessation tool is considered to be 95% safer than conventional smoking, 

And there’s a crystal clear reason why the usage of vaping devices has boomed within recent years: e-cigarettes give smokers a chance to satisfy their cravings while ensuring that the health of themselves and those around them remains significantly less harmed.

Can vaping affect pets?

If you are considering using e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking, you’re most probably wondering if vaping is safe around pets. Provided that you are safely storing your vaping devices and e-liquids away from paw’s reach, the answer is yes! It’s also great to know that many vape liquids can be bought without nicotine, and the vapour clouds that are produced quickly disappear into the air rather than cling to the room with harmful toxins like conventional cigarettes. If you do choose to vape with nicotine, make sure that your pet has another room to retreat to in peace, and always leave windows open or use a fan to ventilate the area as much as possible. 

How to vape safely with pets

Keeping your pet safe while vaping should be a number one priority. Alongside storing your vape devices and e-juices out of reach in a durable and secure container, there are a number of other precautionary measures you should take to ensure maximum safety for your pet(s). 

  • Some animals, particularly dogs, are sensitive to certain smells and can become distressed as a result. When starting out with vaping as a pet owner, it’s often best to choose a simple flavour such as menthol or fruit e-liquids.
  • If you choose to refill your vape container over materials such as newspapers or cloths to avoid stains, ensure to safely dispose of these or move them out of harm’s way to prevent your pet from getting residue on their paws or coat.
  • If vaping with nicotine, you may wish to invest in an air purifier or filter to reduce the risk of nicotine exposure to your pet.
  • Always avoid vaping near your pet’s food or water dishes, or while refilling their bowl. 
  • Once you start vaping, inform your veterinarian during your pet’s next regular checkup. They’ll be able to assess your pet for any irritation or health conditions that could be a cause of unsafe vaping habits.