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Tobacco Smoke, Vaping, Nicotine, and the Risk They Pose to Our Pets

By Don Hanson, ACCBC, BFRAP, CDBC, CPDT-KA | Apr 01, 2021
Photo by: Debra Bell

One of the most important things you can do for your pet's health is to make your home free of tobacco, vaping, and nicotine products. All pose a health risk to pets in your home.

When a tobacco product burns, it gives off smoke. Some of that smoke is inhaled and captured in the smoker's lungs. The smoke exhaled by the smoker and that not inhaled goes directly into the environment, becoming a threat to any living creature. That is called secondhand smoke, and it contains thousands of chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer. Secondhand smoke occurs in any environment where smokers smoke.

Studies have indicated that exposure to tobacco smoke increased the risk of cancer in the nasal cavities and sinuses of long-snouted dogs. Dogs with short and medium-length noses were twice as likely to develop lung cancer if they lived with a smoker. Cats sharing a home with a smoker are twice as likely to develop lymphoma, a type of cancer. After five or more years of exposure, that increases to 3 times more likely.

If you've spent any time in the same environment with a smoker, you know that smoke lingers. It forms a residue on walls, floors, carpets, furniture, clothes, hair, skin, and other surfaces. It accumulates on toys that your child or pet may put in their mouths. It will even cling to the coat of your pet. This residue is thirdhand smoke, and it contains toxins that your pets may ingest from their toys or when licking their paws or their coat. Cats are especially susceptible due to their self-grooming. As they lick at their fur, they expose the toxins from the smoke to the mucous membranes in their mouth.

Exposure to tobacco smoke can cause the following health problems with your pets: breathing issues, cancer, diarrhea, heart disease, itchy skin, lung disease, salivation, and vomiting.

The only way to eliminate second and thirdhand smoke is to stop all smoking in your environment.

E-Cigarettes, vape pens, and the various names used to describe them are "electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)."

An ENDS device uses an internal battery to heat a liquid containing nicotine to produce an aerosol inhaled by the user. This aerosol is also dispersed into the air others breathe when the user exhales and as a by-product of the device. This secondhand vapor also contains nicotine, ultrafine particles, volatile organic compounds, and artificial flavors. Some of these chemicals are known carcinogens. Additionally, this aerosol may contain hazardous heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead.

Just as the flavors added to vape pods make them more attractive to children, they may have the same effect on our pets. If a pet ingests a vape pod, nicotine toxicity can occur within 15 to 30 minutes of exposure.

Nicotine is a natural component of the tobacco plant and acts as a stimulant. It is incredibly addictive, and tiny amounts can be toxic. Pets can ingest nicotine through the consumption of cigarettes and butts, chewing tobacco, cigars, vaping pods and refills, and smoking cessation products such as patches, gums, etc.

Signs of nicotine poisoning in pets include: drooling, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, unsteady gait, dilated pupils, agitation, nervousness, weakness, an abnormal heart rate, high blood pressure, panting, tremors, seizures, paralysis, respiratory arrest, and even death. There is no antidote for nicotine poisoning, so immediate veterinary care is mandatory. Pets can and have died from nicotine poisoning.

How your dog will be affected by nicotine ingestion depends on what it has ingested and its size. Smaller dogs will be more susceptible. Items with the highest nicotine concentration are the most dangerous and include cigars, vaping pods, e-juice, and nicotine patches. These products should be secured where a child or pet can't gain access to them.

The CDC states that 50 to 60mgs of nicotine is a deadly dose for an adult weighing 150 pounds. For pets, the toxic amount of nicotine is 0.5 to 1mg per pound of body weight. The lethal dose is 4mg per pound of body weight. A 20lb dog can get a deadly dose of nicotine from 2.7 cigarettes, as little as 0.18 of a cigar, a single vape pod, or a nicotine patch.

Your pet can be exposed to tobacco, vaping, and smoking cessation products outside of your home. These products can be found in vehicles, the home of family and friends, and places your pet spends time, such as a boarding or daycare facility, the groomer, the dog trainer, or even your veterinarian's offices.

Be aware that waste material from tobacco and vaping products can be equally toxic and are not always disposed of properly. Look for them in parks, dog parks, hiking trails, and even public streets where you walk your dog.

You can find an extended version of this article including references and links to help you quit at – http://bit.ly/Pets-Nicotine-APR21

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Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of ForceFreePets.com, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Don is committed to PPG's Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. He serves on the PPG Steering Committee and Advocacy Committee and is the Chair of The Shock-Free Coalition ( shockfree.org ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/, the Apple Podcast app, and Don's blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©13-Mar-21, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved

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