Your Cigarettes May Be Making Your Dog Fat and Sick: Study

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As if we needed another reason to put out those cigarettes for good, Scottish researchers say that, along with causing other health woes, smoking may be making your dog fat.

In a release from the University of Glasgow, scientists reported on observations from their ongoing study of the health effects of cigarette smoke on dogs and cats. The study has not yet been published, but the university released some findings before the end of the year, perhaps to encourage smokers to give up this dangerous habit as a New Year’s resolution.


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“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,” Clare Knottenbelt, professor of Small Animal Medicine and Oncology at the university’s Small Animal Hospital, said in a statement.

Pets take in “significant amounts of smoke” when living in a home with a puffer, she said. In the team’s most recent findings they discovered that cats take in more cigarette residue than dogs, which may be related to the feline self-grooming instincts.

“As an incidental finding,” Knottenbelt said, “we also observed that dogs living with a smoker gained more weight after neutering.”

Cigarette smoke has at least 40 mutagenic and carcinogenic agents that have been linked to human cancer. Scientists are now trying to pin down the effects on dogs and cats.

In this study, the researchers observed a higher level of a gene that acts as a marker of cell damage in dogs who lived with smokers.

The notion that environmental tobacco smoke, popularly known as “secondhand smoke,” can be deadly to pets is nothing new. Previous research has shown that it boosts the risk of nasal cancer in dogs, specifically those with long muzzles. Other scientists have reported that dogs who live with smokers have higher rates of atopic dermatitis (eczema) than those who live in smoke-free homes.

For more than two decades, there have been studies and anecdotal reports showing more cancers, including lung, lymphoma, and oral cancers, in dogs living with smokers.

“I recently saw a patient who had smoked over 40 cigarettes a day until she developed bronchial carcinoma,” wrote David Cummings, of the Department of Hematology, Harefield Hospital in Britain. “Two of her pet dogs had died of lung cancer … and her cat had suffered from chronic wheezing that resolved when the patient discontinued smoking.” His comments appeared in a letter to the editor in the British Medical Journal in 1994.

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