Smoking and Your Furry Housemates

Do you smoke, even though you know how bad it is for your health? If you’re not able to quit smoking for your own sake, would you consider quitting for the sake of the animals that share your home and heart?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently published an article describing the effects of cigarette smoke on household pets. Bottom line: living with a smoker is harmful to all indoor pets, from cats and dogs to birds and fish.

Cigarette smoke contains 93 chemicals that the FDA has designated as harmful, including ammonia, arsenic, formaldehyde, cyanide, lead, and mercury. Pets are exposed not just to the smoke but also to the residues that linger on the floor, furniture, and other surfaces.

The effects of cigarette smoke and residue depend on the type of animal and its overall health. For example, dogs who have underlying breathing problems, such as collapsing trachea or bronchitis, will cough and pant more if they live with a smoker. Short-nosed dogs, such as Pugs, Bulldogs, and Boxers, who are exposed to cigarette smoke have an increased risk of lung cancer. Long-nosed dogs, such as Dachshunds, Greyhounds, and Collies, have double the incidence of nasal tumors,

Cats are meticulous groomers, so they wind up ingesting the smoke residue that collects on their fur. This predisposes them to squamous cell carcinoma of the mouth.,The risk of developing this highly aggressive cancer is two to four times higher in cats that live with smokers. In addition, cats who live with people who smoke more than one pack of cigarettes a day are three times as likely to develop lymphoma, a cancer of the white blood cells.

Quitting smoking is tough, but I hope that knowing the health benefits for your animal companions gives you the extra bit of incentive you need. For more on smoking and pets and advice on how to quit, go to


Betsy Brevitz DVM