Dogs and Cigarettes

by Bethney Foster
    Will you quit for them?

    Will you quit for them?

    Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

    Smokers know cigarettes are bad for their health. They know the habit costs a lot of money. They know it makes their clothes, houses and vehicles stink. What many may not realize is that cigarettes can also cause serious illness, and even death, for their dogs. From poisoning caused by ingesting cigarette butts to skin allergies from smoke exposure, our canine companions experience a multitude of problems from having a human guardian who uses tobacco.

    One of the most common ways dogs are sickened by a pet guardian's use of tobacco is by eating a product, whether a cigarette butt or nicotine replacement patch. Puppies are especially prone to this life-threatening behavior. It takes much less nicotine to poison your dog than it does to poison you. Symptoms of nicotine poisoning in dogs include tremors, drooling and seizures. If your dog has eaten a nicotine product, you should take him to the nearest emergency veterinary hospital. The best prevention is to stop smoking. If you continue to use nicotine products, keep cigarettes, cigars, ashtrays and nicotine-replacement products designed to aid in the quitting process out of your pet's reach.

    Just like with human smokers and humans exposed to secondhand smoke, there is an increase in the likelihood of certain types of cancer among dogs who have lived with someone who smokes. Increased incidents of nasal, sinus and lung cancer have been found among dogs who live with a smoker. Long-nosed dogs are more likely to develop nasal cancer as the result of secondhand smoke exposure, while short-nosed and medium-nosed dogs are more likely to develop lung cancer.

    Like humans, dogs often have allergic reactions to exposure to secondhand smoke. As you probably expected, this can include eye irritation and respiratory reactions such as wheezing, coughing and sneezing. What is surprising, however, is that allergies caused by smoke can manifest themselves in another way in dogs. Skin allergies can be caused, or worsened, if your pet is exposed to secondhand smoke. We often assume that a dog who is scratching or biting at his skin is experiencing a flea or food allergy, but for some dogs, the allergy causing these issues may be smoke.

    Dogs who live in a house with a smoker are constantly ingesting carcinogens when they groom. The smoke residue clings to their fur and goes directly into their bodies when they clean themselves. In addition, veterinarians have noted lethargy and depression among dogs who live in a smoke-filled environment. While your smoking can cause your dog problems, your dog can help you in the quest to quit. If you have an overwhelming urge for a cigarette, take your dog for a walk. You will both be healthier when you kick the habit.

    Photo Credits

    • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Bethney Foster is social justice coordinator for Mercy Junction ministry, where she edits the monthly publication "Holy Heretic." She is also an adoption coordinator with a pet rescue agency. Foster spent nearly two decades as a newspaper reporter/editor. She graduated from Campbellsville University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English, journalism and political science.

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