Cats linked to higher rates of glaucoma in owners
Keeping a pet dog rather than a cat could save your eyesight, scientists have discovered.
A new study suggests pet cats put owners at far greater risk of going blind, whereas a family dog appears to protect eyesight.
Scientists behind the study found the animals carry antigens which can trigger different immune responses in humans.
While the allergen that dogs carry reduces the risk of developing glaucoma - one of the biggest causes of blindness in Ireland and affecting an estimated 3pc of over-50s - having a cat almost doubles the risk of contracting the condition.
The study, by the University of California, Los Angeles, found that cat owners who reacted to their pet allergen had a 90pc increased risk of glaucoma compared with non-pet owners.
But people with dogs were 20pc less likely to develop the disease.
The research, published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, also found that dog owners were more likely to have better health, because they spent more time outdoors.
Commenting on the findings, Dr David Allamby, a London-based laser eye surgeon, said: "Not only is Fido man's best friend, he may also save your sight.
"Cats could cause our immune system to react in a way that predisposes eyes to the development of glaucoma.
"Exposure to dogs appears to be linked to the opposite effect and could be protective against the disease."
He added: "If you are planning on getting a pet, a dog may be the healthier choice. They encourage people to get outside and exercise more.
"Pet allergies are very common, with adverse reaction to cats twice as common compared with reactions to dogs."