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BREAKING NEWS – Study Reveals The Harsh Effects Of Secondhand Smoke On Pets

| Published on January 2, 2016

On December 29, 2015, The University of Glasgow announced that quitting smoking should be every one New Year’s Resolution – for the sake of their pets.

An ongoing study by the university shows a direct link between the effects on pets living in a smoking environment and a higher risk of health problems including some animal cancers, cell damage and weight gain.

 Image source: @ValentineOttone via Flickr
Image source: @ValentineOttone via Flickr

Professor Clare Knottenbelt, Professor of Small Animal Medicine and Oncology at the university’s Small Animal Hospital, has been studying the effects of smoking and the health impact it has on family dogs and cats.

Professor Knottenbelt said in their release: “Our findings show that exposure to smoke in the home is having a direct impact on pets. It risks ongoing cell damage, increasing weight gain after castration and has previously been shown to increase the risk of certain cancers.

 Image source: @MarkVegas via Flickr
Image source: @MarkVegas via Flickr

“We have already shown that dogs can take in significant amounts of smoke when living in a smoking household,” she continues. “Our current study in cats, (funded by BSAVA Petsavers) shows that cats are even more affected. This may be due to the extensive self-grooming that cats do, as this would increase the amount of smoke taken in to the body.

“As an incidental finding, we also observed that dogs living with a smoker owner gained more weight after neutering than those in a non-smoking household.”‌‌‌‌

Image source: @Daniela via Flickr
Image source: @Daniela via Flickr

Cancer Risk

Researchers also found higher levels of a gene that marks cell damage in dogs from smoking homes versus non-smoking. That same gene has “been shown to be altered in some dog cancers in other studies” so the researchers call it a “worrying indicator.”

Victoria Smith MRCVS, who is investigating the links between passive smoking and lymphoma, a cancer of the blood cells in cats, said: “Our work so far has shown that cats take in significant amounts of smoke and even having outdoor access makes very little difference.

Image source: @MikeMantin via Flcikr
Image source: @MikeMantin via Flcikr

“Owners who consistently smoked away from the cat did not protect their cat from exposure but did reduce the amount of smoke that was taken into the body.”

The study has also shown that when owners reduced the total numbers of tobacco products smoked in the home to less than 10 per day the nicotine levels in the hair dropped significantly but were still higher than those in cats from non-smoking homes.

Professor Knottenbelt, commenting further on the research, concluded: “We are all aware of the risks to our health of smoking and it is important we do everything we can to encourage people to stop smoking. As well as the risk to the smoker, there is the danger of second-hand smoke to others. Pet owners often do not think about the impact that smoking could have on their pets.”

Image source: @FaceMePLS via Flickr
Image source: @FaceMePLS via Flickr

Whilst you can reduce the amount of smoke your pet is exposed to by smoking outdoors and by reducing the number of tobacco products smoked by the members of the household, stopping smoking completely is the best option for your pet’s future health and wellbeing.”

This study is ongoing and the research paper is expected to be published in 2016.

Should It Be A Law?

While this research is not totally surprising – after all, we know secondhand smoke is bad for humans, it only makes sense it effects our pets in a similar manner. But should it be considered a form of animal abuse or cruelty?

In the UK, plans are already in motion to make it illegal to smoke in the a home with pets, saying it violates the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which says a pet owner cannot knowingly expose a pet to a risk of disease.  What do you think?

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