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Is it risky to smoke or vape around companion animals?

Second hand smoke exposure

Passive smoking is a health risk. There is no risk-free level of passive (second-hand) smoke exposure for animals or people. Companion animals, including (but not limited to) dogs, cats, birds, mice, guinea pigs and fish, are susceptible to the damaging effects of second-hand smoke.


Exposure of dogs to second-hand smoke has been associated with allergies, eye problems, and airway problems (including cancers) ​[13]​. There is also evidence that tobacco smoke exposure accelerates the ageing process in dogs ​[4]​.


Cats exposed to second-hand smoke have a greater risk of developing lymphoma (a serious cancer) and airway illnesses ​[5]​, all of which can be life threatening. Cats are also at risk from swallowing the toxic residues of smoke when they self-groom. This is associated with the development of oral tumours ​[6]​.


Birds are extremely sensitive to the volatile toxins found in cigarette smoke due to their small size and the efficiency at which they absorb things from the air. Birds also swallow toxins from cigarette smoke when they preen themselves. Birds can develop airway illnesses, feather plucking, allergies, cancers, heart disease, and sinus, skin, eye, and fertility problems from exposure to cigarette smoke ​[7]​.

Mice, guinea pigs, and other small animals

Small animals can suffer from airway, heart, kidney and bone problems as a result of exposure to tobacco smoke ​[8, 9]​.


Nicotine is very toxic to most fish kept domestically. Nicotine and other toxins from second-hand smoke easily dissolve in water and even small amounts can be very harmful and even deadly to fish ​[10]​.

Nicotine poisoning

Animals of all kinds can suffer nicotine poisoning if they eat anything containing nicotine, including cigarettes, cigarette butts, cigars, nicotine patches, or vaping paraphernalia (e.g., liquid refills). Common signs of nicotine poisoning include vomiting, drooling, lethargy, wobbliness, fast heart rate, weakness, shaking, and seizures.

Avoid smoking or vaping around companion animals, and store nicotine products safely to reduce the risk of nicotine poisoning ​[11]​.


​​[1] Puzycki K, Ekin U, Bidaisee S, Keku E (2018) Tobacco smoke exposure and household pets: A systematic literature review examining the health risk to household pets and new indications of exposed pets affecting human health. Int Public Health J 10:11–24

​[2] Reif JS, Bruns C, Lower KS (1998) Cancer of the Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinuses and Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke in Pet Dogs. 147:

​[3] Ka D, Marignac G, Desquilbet L, Freyburger L, Hubert B, Garelik D, Perrot S (2014) Association between passive smoking and atopic dermatitis in dogs. Food and Chemical Toxicology 66:329–333

​[4] Avila-Tang E, Al-Delaimy WK, Ashley DL, Benowitz N, Bernert JT, Kim S, Samet JM, Hecht SS (2013) Assessing secondhand smoke using biological markers. Tob Control 22:164–171

​[5] Bertone ER, Snyder LA, Moore AS (2002) Environmental tobacco smoke and risk of malignant lymphoma in pet cats. Am J Epidemiol 156:268–273

​[6] Snyder LA, Bertone ER, Jakowski RM, Jennings-Ritchie J, Moore AS (2004) p53 Expression and Environmental Tobacco Smoke Exposure in Feline Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Vet Pathol 41:209–214

​[7] Miesle J (2022) The effects of tobacco use on avian species. https://beautyofbirds.com/effects-smoking-tobacco-on-birds/. Accessed 27 Jan 2023

​[8] Bocalini DS, da Silva Luiz R, Silva KAS, Serra AJ, Avila RA, Leopoldo AS, Lima-Leopoldo AP, da Cunha MRH, Tucci PJF, dos Santos L (2020) Short-term cigarette smoking in rats impairs physical capacity and induces cardiac remodeling. Biomed Res Int. https://doi.org/10.1155/2020/2589892

​[9] Rosa RC, Pereira SC, Cardoso FAG, Caetano AG, de Santiago HAR, Volpon JB (2017) Second hand tobacco smoke adversely affects the bone of immature rats. Clinics 72:785–789

​[10] Roberts H, Palmeiro BS (2008) Toxicology of Aquarium Fish. Veterinary Clinics of North America – Exotic Animal Practice 11:359–374

​[11] el Bahri L (2015) E-cigs: Toxic threat to dogs. https://www.vettimes.co.uk/app/uploads/wp-post-to-pdf-enhanced-cache/1/e-cigs-toxic-threat-to-dogs.pdf. Accessed 27 Jan 2023

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Updated on March 6, 2023
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