Smoking Is Damaging Your Pet’s Health, Researchers Warn

If you made a New Year’s resolution to stop smoking and are already struggling to stick to it, a new study may offer a further incentive: quitting the habit can benefit your pet’s health as well as your own.
[A cat paw on an ashtray]
Pets in smoking households are at greater risk for weight gain, cell damage, and some cancers, according to researchers.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the US, accounting for around 1 in 5 deaths annually.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking causes around 90% of all lung cancer deaths in men and women, and it is also a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and numerous other illnesses.

But it is not only smokers themselves who are at risk of such conditions; since 1964, around 2.5 million non-smokers in the US have died from exposure to secondhand smoke.

With this in mind, it is perhaps unsurprising that pets living in households where someone smokes are at greater risk for poor health.

Previous research from Clare Knottenbelt, professor of small animal medicine and oncology at the University of Glasgow in the UK, and colleagues has shown that dogs living in a smoking household ingest a high amount of tobacco smoke.

For this latest study – which is ongoing – the team set out to investigate how tobacco smoke exposure impacts the health of cats and dogs.

Cats at greatest risk from smoke exposure

Prof. Knottenbelt and colleagues analyzed the nicotine levels in the animals’ fur and looked at whether such levels were associated with any health problems. Additionally, they assessed the testicles of dogs following castration in order to identify any signs of cell damage.

Compared with pets living in non-smoking households, the researchers found that those living in smoking households may be at greater risk of cell damage, some cancers and weight gain.

Cats are most at risk, according to the researchers, because they ingest more smoke than dogs – regardless of whether or not they have access to outdoors. The team speculates that this may be down to the extensive self-grooming cats engage in, causing them to ingest more tobacco toxins.

When analyzing the testicles of castrated dogs from smoking households, the researchers identified a gene that represents a sign of cell damage that is related to some cancers.

Furthermore, they found that dogs that lived in smoking households gained more weight after being neutered than dogs from non-smoking households.

Stopping smoking completely ‘best for pets’ health and well-being’

However, the researchers also found that these risks reduced when owners smoked outside, therefore reducing the amount of smoke their pets ingested.

While owners who reduced the number of cigarettes they smoked per day did reduce pets’ smoke exposure, it was not eliminated completely; cats from households that reduced their cigarette intake to less than 10 daily still had higher nicotine levels in their fur than those from non-smoking households.

The team suggests that pets may even be at greater risk of health problems from smoke exposure than children in smoking households, noting that because pets are lower in height, they are more likely to ingest third-hand smoke – that is, tobacco chemicals present in carpets and other surfaces.

While the research is ongoing, the team believes the results to date should act as a warning to smokers with pets. Prof. Knottenbelt says:

“As well as the risk to the smoker, there is the danger of secondhand smoke to others. Pet owners often do not think about the impact that smoking could have on their pets.

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 well-being.”

So, the next time you get the urge to light up and break that New Year’s resolution, just spare a thought for the health of your four-legged friend.

UK Labrador Retrievers At Risk Of Middle-Aged Spread

Britain’s most popular dog breed can suffer from weight gain in middle age just like people, a UK canine health survey suggests.

Labrador Retrievers gain an average of 0.9kg each year between the ages of one and four, putting them at risk of being overweight by the time they reach middle age, the study shows.

Previous research suggests that, in the UK, Labrador Retrievers are the breed most likely to be overweight. The dogs are fully grown after 18 months and are regarded as being near middle age by the time they reach four. Researchers say putting on nearly 1kg every year after reaching maturity puts many at risk of obesity.

The findings are part of the Dogslife project, which seeks to gain a greater insight into links between the Labradors’ lifestyles and their health and wellbeing.

Dog owners provided details of their animals’ lifestyle as part of the project, which is led by the University of Edinburgh. The team assessed the activity levels and size of more than 4000 Kennel Club registered Labrador Retrievers as they grew to the age of four.

The study found that, on average, dogs were exercised for more than two hours each day. Dogs that spent more time fetching, chasing and retrieving tended to weigh less, the team say.

Chocolate colored Labradors were found to weigh, on average, 1.4kg more than yellow and black Labradors. While exercise is important, other factors such as genetics appear to play a role in why some dogs gain more weight than others in early life, the team says.

Initial findings from the Dogslife project will help researchers carry out further studies into the links between dogs’ body size, lifestyle, and overall health.

The study, published in the journal Preventive Veterinary Medicine, was funded by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, The Roslin Foundation and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Dr. Dylan Clements, of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and The Roslin Institute, who led the study, said: “Dogslife is a ground-breaking study of canine health, which is made possible thanks to the incredible dedication of dog owners.”

Dogslife: A cohort study of Labrador Retrievers in the UK, C.A. Pugh,, B.M.de C. Bronsvoort, I.G. Handel, K.M. Summers, D.N. Clements, Preventive Veterinary Medicine, doi:10.1016/j.prevetmed.2015.06.020, published online 7 July 2015.

Source: University of Edinburgh

Doggy Database Aims To Define The Health Of Our Pets

Using data collected about Labrador Retrievers, research published in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Veterinary Research is beginning to quantify the health, illnesses, and veterinary care of dogs.

The UK is a nation of pet lovers – but what do we know about the health of our pets? To date the long-term (longitudinal) study of canine diseases has been patchy, relying on information from referral centers and details about pet illnesses which are not reported to a vet have never been studied before.

The Dogslife internet-based project* was organized in conjunction with the Kennel Club. From the 1st July 2010, the owners of all Labrador Retrievers born after 1st January 2010 and registered with the Kennel Club were invited to be part of the project. In the first year of the study 1407 dogs were enrolled in the study.

Early results to come out of this study show that four out of ten of all dogs were ill at some point. Analyzing their data the researchers estimated that about 80% of dogs had been ill by the time they were one year old – but that only half were considered by their owners to be ill enough to need to visit the vet.

Discussing the Dogslife project, Dr Dylan Clements from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and The Roslin Institute, which are both part of The University of Edinburgh, and lead author of the study said, “Labrador Retrievers are the most popular pedigree dog in the UK, and breeders and owners are passionate about the health of their pets. We are extremely grateful for the time and commitment provided by owners and breeders contributing to the study. We hope to follow the health of these dogs throughout their lives so that we can identify aspects of care which might reduce the risk of dogs developing the disease in the future.”

* Dogslife internet-based project

The study is on-going, so any Kennel Club registered Labradors born in the UK after 1st January 2010 can join the project.

Dogslife: A web-based longitudinal study of Labrador Retriever health in the UK Dylan N Clements, Ian G Handel, Erica Rose, Damon Querry, Carys A Pugh, William ER Ollier, Kenton L Morgan, Lorna J Kennedy, Jeffery Sampson, Kim M Summers and B Mark de Bronsvoort BMC Veterinary Research (in press)

BioMed Central

Source: EurekAlert!, the online, global news service operated by AAAS, the science society