SMOKERS are being urged to quit the habit for the sake of their pets after two studies found direct links between health problems in domestic pets and living in a smoking household.
Research by the University of Glasgow has flagged up a higher risk of health problems including cancers, cell damage and weight gain in cats and dogs exposed to smoke and nicotine in the home.
Professor Clare Knottenbelt, who specialised in 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.”
A study compared 40 cats living in smoke-free homes across Scotland to 39 cats living in smoking households.
The research has established that cats living with smokers held on to high levels of nicotine in their fur, which is then likely to be ingested when they groom themselves.
The findings will now be used as a base to compare nicotine levels in cats with the incidence of lymphoma and inflammatory bowel disease.
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Vet Victoria Smith, who is investigating the links between passive smoking and cat lymphoma, 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 has also shown that when owners reduced the total number of tobacco products smoked in the home to less than ten day the nicotine levels in cat hair dropped significantly.
The smoking research is the latest from the Glasgow University vet school, which treats hundreds of animals every year from Scotland and the north of England.
In a separate study, Glasgow researchers examined the testicles of 40 castrated dogs, with half the animals coming from smoking households. They found that a gene which acts as a marker of cell damage was higher in dogs living in smoking homes than those in non-smoking homes.
Researchers said the findings could be a “worrying indicator” as the marker gene had altered in dogs suffering from some canine cancers.