Exposure to secondhand smoke can lead to a variety of health problems for dogs and cats and may lead to long-term damage.

Exposure to tobacco smoke causes immediate changes in an animal’s body that, over time, have long term ramifications. When a pet inhales tobacco smoke, the toxins in the smoke cause the pet’s airways to become irritated. With repeated exposure, this irritation causes the airways of the lungs to become inflamed and damaged. This cycle of irritation and damage leads to the walls of the airways to lose their elasticity and become thicker. Because of this, pets are more likely to develop allergies and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). The repeated inflammation from this damage also predisposes an animal to develop cancer.

The symptoms associated with secondhand smoke in pets are a bit similar to what is seen in humans. Allergic or COPD pets will exhibit sneezing, coughing and breathing trouble. It is possible if these symptoms are accompanied by vomiting, nasal bleeding and weight loss that lung or nasal cancer has developed. A study done by Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine revealed that cats are more likely than dogs to be affected with these issues. Tufts also found cats exposed to second-hand smoke can develop malignant lymphoma, another type of cancer.

Second-hand smoke isn’t the only way cigarettes can harm pets. If pets happen to eat cigarettes, which is common considering their curious nature, they can have problems. This is because the nicotine in the cigarette acts like acetylcholine, a chemical the pet’s body naturally makes, to cause depressed breathing. If enough cigarettes are consumed, the breathing can slow down to a complete stop and your pet can die. According to Kirk’s Veterinary Therapy, eating one cigarette can cause symptoms in a 40 pound dog, while eleven would potentially be fatal.

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