Passive Smoking Can Kill Your Cat: Secondhand Smoke Poses More Risks To Pets Than To Humans

Secondhand smoke is a known health hazard for humans, but its detrimental effects are far more harmful in pets, especially in cats.

In an ongoing study by University of Glasgow, researchers present a direct connection between the effects of pets exposed to smoker owners and an increased risk of health problems such as cancer, cell impairment and weight gain.

Cats More Than Dogs

The study shows that compared to dogs, cats are the more affected by secondhand smoke. "This may be due to the extensive self-grooming that cats do, as this would increase the amount of smoke taken into the body," said Clare Knottenbelt from the university's Small Animal Hospital. Knottenbelt has been investigating the effects of smoking on family cats and dogs.

Co-author Victoria Smith said the study results show that cats do inhale high amounts of smoke, which is very detrimental. Even if cat owners take their pets outdoors, the difference is far from significant, she said.

Smith is specifically studying the connections between passive smoking and a type of blood cancer called lymphoma.

The researchers also found that reducing the number of tobacco smoked inside the house to less than 10 per day can drastically decrease nicotine levels in cat hair. However, the resulting amount is still far greater than the nicotine levels of cats staying in a non-smoking environment.

Dog Effects

The experts studied testicles of male dogs and found that compared to those living in non-smoking homes, smoke-exposed dogs had higher levels of genes that signify a cell damage marker.

The said gene has been found to change in the face of cancer diagnosis in dogs. With this, its increased levels may be an indicator that something bad is set to develop. When the pet owners chose to smoke outside of the home, this gene was also reduced.

Experts also found that dogs staying with smokers gained more weight after castration than those living with non-smokers.

Knottenbelt summarized the team's findings by saying that secondhand smoke has a direct link to pets' health. The public is fully aware of the negative effects of smoking and so everyone should exert effort to curb the habit. Smoking poses great risks not only to primary smokers, but to secondhand smokers as well.

"Pet owners often do not think about the impact that smoking could have on their pets," Knottenbelt said. While smoking outdoors and reducing tobacco use may result in better outcomes, she advises people to completely stop smoking as this is the only way to protect the health of pets.

This study is still ongoing and the full paper is due to be published in 2016.

Photo: Matt MacGillivray | Flickr

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