If you smoke, here’s some extra incentive to quit: The health of your best pet pal may be at risk.
Secondhand smoke doesn’t just harm people. It’s bad for animals too. And pets may be exposed to what experts call third-hand smoke. That’s the harmful chemical residue that accumulates in smokers’ homes—including on floors and furniture, where pets hang out—according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It’s that smoky smell you might notice. What’s worse, nicotine in that third-hand smoke can react with chemicals in the air, forming cancer-causing compounds, according to FDA.
And since third-hand smoke chemicals can get on people’s clothes or skin (which pets may lick), your pet may be exposed even if you smoke outside.
How does smoking affect pets?
While we know that smoking is the leading preventable cause of death for people, experts are still learning about how second- and third-hand smoke affects pets. So far, they’ve found out a few things that are pretty startling. For example:
Dogs. Breathing tobacco smoke can worsen existing breathing problems and increase the risk of certain cancers—short-nosed dogs are more at risk for lung cancer, and long-nosed dogs for nose cancer.
Cats. Kitties that live with a smoker have a heightened risk of oral cancer (probably from grooming smoky chemicals off their own fur) and lymphoma.
Birds. Our feathered friends may be at increased risk of everything from sinus problems to lung cancer.
Fish. Even a pet goldfish may be poisoned if nicotine gets in its water.
Read more in the FDA’s consumer update on smoking and pets.
If you smoke, why not make a plan to quit—for your pet and for you? Help is available. Talk to your doctor for ideas that may make quitting easier.