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

< A version of this article was published in the April 2021 issue of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 24JUN21 >

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Two nights before I started writing my April 2021 Words, Woofs, & Meows column for Downeast Dog News, my staff and I at Green Acres attended a training session called Tobacco Smoke and Animals-Understanding the Risks & Tips on How to Talk to Pet Owners About their Tobacco Use. This presentation was developed by the Maine CDC and presented for us by Public Health Educator/Tobacco specialists from Bangor Public Health. I knew I had to share what we learned in my next column, as this was important information.

You can listen to a podcast on this topic at this link.

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

Exposure to Smoke

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 or that enters the air as the tobacco burns goes directly into the environment, becoming a threat to any living creature in that environment. 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.

A person’s exposure to secondhand smoke increases their risk of developing lung cancer or heart disease by as much as 30%. In addition, children are at a higher risk for these health issues; Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, acute respiratory infections, ear problems, learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and severe asthma.

A dog that lives with a smoker will have significantly higher cotinine levels in its blood due to exposure to nicotine from secondhand smoke.1 Other studies have indicated that exposure to tobacco smoke increased cancer risk in the nasal cavities and sinuses of long-snouted dogs2. Cancer risk for those dogs increased the more the smoker smoked. Dogs with short and medium-length noses were twice as likely to develop lung cancer if they lived with a smoker.3 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.4

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 mouth.  It will even cling to the coat of your pet. Blech!

This residue is classified as thirdhand smoke and contains toxins that your children can ingest when playing with their toys. In addition, pets may ingest thirdhand smoke 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. However, even if you force everyone to smoke outside your home, the environmental tobacco levels in your home will still be five to seven times higher than in a house where everyone is a nonsmoker5.

If you have committed to having a smoke-free home or are ready to do so, I encourage you to take the Smoke-Free Homes Pledge at

Vaping and Exposure to E-Cigarette Vapors

E-Cigarettes, vape pens, and the various names used to describe them are “electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).” These devices may look like real cigarettes, pens, and even USB flash drives.

An ENDS device uses an internal battery to heat a liquid, often called E-Juice or vape juice, 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 ENDS device. This secondhand vape juice 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.

According to the CDC, many of these products, like JUUL, contain higher nicotine levels in a different chemical form than other products. They use nicotine salts instead of free-base nicotine. This allows the nicotine to be inhaled more easily, with less irritation to the lungs, encouraging increased use of an already addictive product. A single pod may contain as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes.

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. Depending on where you live, that may not give you enough time to get to a veterinarian. If you suspect ingestion, seek veterinary care immediately. Please do not wait until you observe signs of toxicity, as it may be too late.

Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems are as unhealthy and can be as deadly as smoking tobacco. Thus, ENDS seems to be a fitting acronym for something with great potential to END life.


Nicotine is a natural component of the tobacco plant that acts as a stimulant and can reduce anxiety. However, it is incredibly addictive, and tiny amounts can be toxic. In addition, pets can ingest nicotine by consuming 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 they have ingested and their 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.

 Nicotine Content of Typical Products and Amount Lethal to a Pet

Nicotine Content in these items Average Amount of Nicotine/mg/g) Lethal Dose 10lb Pet, 40mg Lethal Dose 20lb Pet, 80mg Lethal Dose 60lb Pet, 240mg
Cigarette, one 7 to 30 1.3 to 5.7 cigarettes 2.67 to 11.43 cigarettes 8 to 34.3 cigarettes
Cigar, one 100 to 444 0.09 to 0.4 cigars 0.18 to 0.8 cigars 0.54 to 2.40 cigars
Chewing Tobacco 7 to 16  2.5 to 5.7 g 5 to 11.43 g 15 to 34.3g
Vape Pod 41.3 to 90 0.44 to 0.97 pods 0.89 to 1.94 pods 2.67 to 5.7 pods
Nicotine Patch 7 to 114 0.35 to 5.7 patches 0.7 to 11.43 patches 2.1 to 34.3 patches
Nicotine Gum,
1 pc
2 to 4 10 to 20 pcs 20 to 40 pcs 60 to 120 pcs

Think Beyond Your Home

Remember, 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. In addition, the use of tobacco and vaping products at events where pets may be present should also be a concern. Look for signs like this one at businesses where your pet spends time.

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.

So How Do I Quit or Help Someone Else Quit?

Nicotine is an addictive drug. Sadly, tobacco and vaping companies are taking advantage of that fact to fill their coffers as your health and those around you are put at risk. Data indicates that 70% of tobacco users want to quit, and more than half attempt to stop yearly. Keep trying!

Only you can decide if you’re going to stop smoking or vaping. If you choose to quit tobacco, vaping, or both, the state of Maine has resources ready to assist you. I encourage you to check them out at MaineQuitLink.com When you quit, you know that the rest of your family, including your pets, will benefit.

When trying to help others to quit, make it about the smoke, not the smoker. Please share information about the danger of smoke with other members of your family without shaming them. Often, protecting the health of others can be a great motivator. If they’re not ready to quit, suggest they stop smoking indoors. Lastly, recognize that talking about the dangers of tobacco use is not a one-time event. Be prepared to bring it up again, but no shaming or nagging. You can find many informative fact sheets and infographics at the MaineHealth Center for Tobacco Independence website –


Cited References

1Bertone-Johnson ER, Procter-Gray E, Gollenberg AL, et al. Environmental tobacco smoke and canine urinary cotinine level. Environ Res. 2008;106(3):361-4. Available at: Accessed Nov 11, 2012.

2Reif JS, Bruns C, Lower KS. Cancer of the Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinuses and Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke in Pet Dogs. Am J Epidemiol 1998; 147:488–92. Available at: Accessed Nov 11, 2012.

3Reif JS, Dunn K, Ogilvie GK et al. Passive smoking and canine lung cancer risk. Am J Epidemiol 1992 Feb 1;135(3):234-9. Available at: Accessed Nov 11, 2012.

4Environmental Tobacco Smoke and Risk of Malignant Lymphoma in Pet Cats; Am J Epidemiol 2002; 156:268–73. Bertone ER, Snyder LA, Moore AS.

5Matt GE, Quintana PJE, Hovell MF et al.  Households contaminated by environmental tobacco smoke: sources of infant exposures. Tob Control 2004;13:29-3. Available at: Accessed Nov 11, 2012.

Other Resources

Smoking, Vaping, Nicotine & Pets

Resources to Help You Quit Smoking or Vaping

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of, 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 ( ). 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 streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog:  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©10-Mar-21, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Podcast – Spaying & Neutering with Dr. Christine Calder

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< Updated 09FEB21 >

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If you are wondering if you should spay or neuter your pet, and when to do so, may find this podcast helpful.

Not so many years ago, the consensus opinion was that spaying and neutering pets early was necessary to control pet overpopulation. Evidence also suggested spaying/neutering reduced the risk of various cancers and the development of certain behavioral problems such as aggression and marking. Today, the evidence is less clear. In fact, if you ask five different pet professionals if you should spay or neuter and when to do it, you may get multiple opinions even from the same individual.

Before you decide whether to spay or neuter your pet, the best thing you can do is take the responsibility to do some research and to consider the information that is available. Your decision may depend on many factors; species, breed, your individual pet, lifestyle/situation, and even where you live. Did you know that in some countries it is illegal to spay/neuter a pet, or that, in some of those same countries animal shelters and rescues are unnecessary because they do not have homeless pets? As for the health and behavioral pros and cons of spaying and neutering they can go both ways.

For this show, which first aired on February 15th, 2020, Kate and Don invited Dr. Christine Calder, a veterinary behaviorist, who also spent fifteen years as a general practice veterinarian, to help us sort through the latest information on spaying and neutering so that you will know what to ask and consider when you discuss whether to spay your pet with their veterinarian. Our podcast page will include links to several articles you may find helpful, but be advised they do not encompass all the information on the risks and benefits of spaying and neutering your pet.

Contact Info for Dr. Calder

Business: Calder Veterinary Behavior Services
Phone: (207) 298-4375
Facebook Page:

More info on Dr. Calder

From the January 2020 issue of Downeast Dog News

Podcast – Introducing Dr. Christine Calder, Maine’s 1st Veterinary Behaviorist

For Reference

Reexamining the early spay-neuter paradigm in dogs, dvm360, 2019, Dr. Mike Petty and  Dr. Mark Goldstein, –

Are There Behavior Changes When Dogs Are Spayed or Neutered?, Stanley Coren, PhD., DSc, FRSC, Canine Corner, Psychology Today –

Long-Term Health Risks and Benefits Associated with Spay/Neuter in Dogs, Laura J. Sanborn, M.S., dogs naturally blog, –

Behavioral and Physical Effects of Spaying and Neutering Domestic Dogs (Canis familiaris), Summary of findings detailed in a Masters thesis submitted to and accepted by Hunter College by Parvene Farhoody in May 2010. –

Behavioural risks in male dogs with minimal lifetime exposure to gonadal hormones may complicate population-control benefits of desexing, McGreevy PD, Wilson B, Starling MJ, Serpell JA, 2018, PLoS ONE 13(5): e0196284, –

Long-Term Health Effects of Neutering Dogs: Comparison of Labrador Retrievers with Golden Retrievers, Hart BL, Hart LA, Thigpen AP, Willits NH 2014, PLoS ONE 9(7): e102241. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102241 –

You can hear The Woof Meow Show on Z62 Retro Radio, AM620, and WKIT HD3 at 9 AM on Saturday. If you are not near a radio, listen on your computer at or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show. You can download this show and others at , at Don’s blog and the Apple iTunes store.


©15FEB20, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved

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Especially for New Puppy Parents

< Updated 05JUL21 >

< >

If you have a new puppy that is 8 to 16 weeks of age, this is the article you want. If you have a dog older than 12 weeks of age, you may also wish to check out this article –

A puppy does not come with a user’s manual; at least none that are complete and accurate. This article and series of links to other articles and podcasts are meant to get you started on learning what you need to know about caring for your puppy.  However, it does not take the place of enrolling yourself, and your puppy in a puppy headstart or kindergarten class that is under the direction of a professional dog trainer, accredited by an independent certification body and that is committed to pain-free, force-free, and pain-free training. If you prefer to absorb information by listening, rather than reading, you may want to listen to these three podcasts.

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 1

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 2

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 3

A new puppy can be a great addition to your family, but they will also require some work on your part. You will very likely have questions about; housetraining, socialization, play biting and nipping, chewing, training methods, wellness exams, nutrition, vaccinations, babies and dogs, kids and dogs and more. This post includes links to articles and podcasts that address the most common questions people ask me when they are thinking of getting a new puppy or that have just added one to their home. While we strongly encourage everyone to attend a Puppy Headstart class while the puppy is between 8 and 16 weeks of age, these materials will provide you with some additional information. You can read or listen to them in any order you choose; however, I believe you will get the most benefit if you go through them in the order that they are listed.

My first word of advice; “patience.” It is very easy to want the ideal puppy immediately, but just as “Rome was not built in a day,” Your puppy will not be the perfect companion in a week, nor in all likelihood in a month. Training is a process, and as such it takes time. Yes, there will times you may become frustrated, but when you look back in a year you will realize it was a precious time for you and your pup, one filled with learning and fun!

I encourage you to read the following shared blog post, all about patience, by dog trainer Nancy Tanner. Read it, print it, and then post it on your refrigerator, or somewhere in your home where it is close at hand anytime you are feeling frustrated with your puppy. –

Shared Blog Post – the misunderstanding of time by Nancy Tanner OR

Enrolling yourself and your puppy in a reward-based dog training class designed by a Certified Professional Dog Trainer is the best thing you can do for you and your dog. Not all trainers and dog training classes are equal. Because dog training is currently a non-regulated and non-licensed profession the quality of instruction and practices used can vary widely, sometimes into the inhumane. The following article will provide you with information on what to look for in a dog trainer and dog training facility.

FMI – How to Choose a Dog Trainer OR

What You Need to Know BEFORE You Start Training –

Do not try to teach your puppy everything at once. In class, we will teach you certain behaviors, in a specific order, for a reason; to make training easier.

During the critical socialization period, between 8 and 16 weeks of age, it is far more important to work on planning and appropriately socializing and habituating your dog than it is to teach them to shake or any other behavior. This is a limited period, and you want to make the most of it. Inadequate or inappropriate socialization is a common reason dogs develop behavioral problems such as aggression and anxiety.

FMI – Puppy Socialization and Habituation

If you are already having problems with your dog guarding food and other items, stealing things, or growling, make an appointment with us for a Help Now! session as soon as possible. Punishment in any form will likely make these behaviors worse and could result in someone being bitten.

FMI – What Should I Dog When My Dog Does Not Let Me Take Something They Have Stolen and Snaps or Tries to Bite Me?

FMI – What Should I Do When My Dog Growls? 

Dogs and children both need training and supervision to learn how to appropriately and safely interact with one another. Dogs and children will not automatically get along. If you do not have children, your dog will still need to be socialized with children and learn how to interact with them. If you have children and a dog, you will need to spend time working with both. I highly recommend the book A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! by Niki Tudge. You will discover some things that you probably did not know about dogs while learning how to teach your children about interacting with your dog and any other dog they may meet.

FMI – Book Review – A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! by Niki Tudge

Think carefully about what you teach your puppy; intentionally or unintentionally. Un-training a behavior takes a whole lot more time and energy than training a behavior. A trick like “shake” is cute, but think long and hard if you want a dog that will always be trying to get every person they see to shake, even when they have muddy paws.

If there are multiple people that will be interacting with your dog, discuss what cues, visual and verbal, that you will use for specific behaviors so that you are all being consistent. Do not be in a hurry to add a visual (hand signal) or a verbal cue to a behavior. We do not start using a cue until we are confident that the dog understands the behavior in multiple contexts and environments. If you start using the cue to soon, you may need to change it. We will talk about that more in class.

If you have questions that just will not wait until class starts, contact us and make an appointment for a Help Now! session.

Blog Posts

Words-woofs-Meows-High Res with TM 755x800The blog posts listed below will all be very useful for anyone thinking about getting a new puppy or for those of you that just added a puppy to your family.

How to Choose a Dog Trainer – OR

Themes in Puppy Training

Themes in Puppy Training – What You Need to Know BEFORE You Start Training –

Puppy Socialization and Habituation

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Started Training Dogs – Gus, the Dominance Myth, An Alpha Roll, and a Damaged Relationship

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog – Aversives are Unnecessary and Counter-Productive When Training A Dog – Part 1 – WWM-JAN2019

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog – Aversives are Unnecessary and Counter-Productive When Training A Dog – Part 2 – WWM-FEB2019 –

Dog Behavior – Dominance: Reality or Myth –  OR

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars

Canine Communication & Stress

Introduction to Canine Communication

Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stress

Essential Handouts On Body Language, and Canine and Human Behavior from Dr. Sophia Yin

Jaws & Paws

Play Biting – Biting and Bite Thresholds –

Play Biting – Help! My Puppy’s A Land Shark!


Puddles & Piles


Alone Training – Preventing separation anxiety – Teaching your dog to cope with being alone

Grabs & Nabs


The Power of Food3

Teaching the ATTENTION or LOOK Behavior

Health & Safety

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

Summer Pet Care Tips

Cold Weather and Holiday Tips for Pets

Canine Nutrition

GAKS Philosophy on Pet Nutrition

Pet Foods We Offer At Green Acres Kennel Shop

Pet Nutrition – Which Companies Are Behind Your Pet’s Food?  –

What I Feed My Dog and Why I Feed What I Do

Podcast – What We Feed Our Pets and Why, with – Don Hanson, Kate Dutra, and Linda Case

Which Are the Best Treats for Dogs?

Pet Nutrition Facts – Do You Want Optimal Nutrition, Low Cost, or Convenience? You CANNOT Have It All, a four-part series –

Podcasts-Two Conversations with Animal Nutritionist Dr. Richard Patton

Pet Nutrition: Some Myths and Facts – Part 1 – My story with Gus – Maine Dog Magazine – Winter 2017

Pet Nutrition – The Science and Dogma of Pet Nutrition with Dr. Richard Patton with link to 1-hour video

Podcast – Pet Fooled – A Look Inside A Questionable Industry with Kohl Harrington

Pet Fooled – A Look Inside A Questionable Industry – The Video

Pet Nutrition – The Wisdom of Rotating Your Pets Diet – Part 1

Pet Nutrition – The Wisdom of Rotating Your Pets Diet – Part 2

Podcast – DCM, the FDA, and Dog Food-the Science and the Hype with Canine Nutritionist Linda Case

Shared News Story – An Exposé on Prescription Diets from WJLA ABC7 News

The Scientific Benefits of Feeding Raw, All in One Place-Dr. Karen Becker interviews Dr. Conor Brady, author of  Feeding Dogs: The Science Behind The Dry Versus Raw Debate

Pet Food Myths & Facts – No. 1 – MYTH – Only a Board-Certified Veterinary Nutritionist is qualified to formulate pet food

WSAVA Body Condition Score for Canines

WSAVA Body Condition Score for Felines

An Intro to the Recall Behavior & Walking Politely

Teaching Your Puppy to Come When Called – Starting Points –

How Do I Get My Dog to Walk Politely Instead of Pulling on the Leash? –

Dogs and Children

Recommended Resources on Kids & Dogs

Book Review – A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! by Niki Tudge

Book Review – Living with Kids and Dogs…Without Losing Your Mind: A Parent’s Guide to Controlling the Chaos by Colleen Pelar

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