Pets exposed to second-hand smoke at home are likely to develop health problems
Pets that are exposed to second-hand smoke at home are more likely to develop health problems than those in non-smoking households, an ongoing study has found.
Scientists at the University of Glasgow have established a direct link between family pets living in a smoking environment and animal illnesses including cancer, cell damage and weight gain.
The study found cats are particularly at risk from second-hand smoke, potentially due to extensive self-grooming, and that dogs which have been castrated are more likely to put on weight than those in a smoke-free home.
Clare Knottenbelt, Professor of Small Animal Medicine and Oncology at the university's Small Animal Hospital, said: "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.
"We have already shown that dogs can take in significant amounts of smoke when living in a smoking household.
"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."
Researchers examined the testicles of male dogs after they were castrated and found a gene that acts as a marker of cell damage was higher in dogs living in smoking homes than those that did not.
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.
"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 also found that if pet owners chose to smoke outside the effect on their pets, although reduced, was not eradicated.
Similarly, when owners reduced the total numbers of tobacco products smoked in the home to less than 10 per day, the nicotine levels in their pets' hair dropped significantly but were still higher than those in cats from non-smoking homes.