I recently saw a headline on the news which linked smoking and its effects on pets in the home. A study at the University of Glasgow has shown that smoking causes a higher risk of health problems including some animal cancers, cell damage and weight gain after castration.
“We have already shown that dogs can take in significant amounts of smoke when living in a smoking household. Our current study in cats 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.” said Professor Clare Knottenbelt in a study which took place in 2015.
Dr Natalie Hutchinson wanted to extend the research (2017) done by her professor Clare Knottenbelt to look at biological age, to see if being exposed to smoking was making dogs age faster. Of the dogs that took part, approximately half lived in smoking homes and half in non-smoking homes. Natalie collected blood, hair samples and cheek swabs from the dogs. The two researchers also offered free-of-charge neutering, which allowed them to collect spare tissue samples for genetic analysis.
“The main thing we looked at was telomeres, the ‘caps’ on the end of chromosomes,” explains Natalie. “They protect the DNA and they get shorter and shorter as you age. As you age, each time your cells divide, you lose a little bit more.” Although natural they are worried it is happening faster than it should.
She found the telomeres were shorter in blood samples and found traces of nicotine exposure were higher in the dogs who lived with smokers.
We can only suppose that dogs who do age faster could be more likely to get diseases such as cancer or die earlier at the moment as more research needs to be carried out.
A little more on telomeres…
Telomeres are the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes, like the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces.
Without the coating, shoelaces become frayed until they can no longer do their job, just as without telomeres, DNA strands become damaged and our cells can’t do their job.
Telomeres get shorter each time a cell copies itself, but the important DNA stays intact.
Eventually, telomeres get too short to do their job, causing our cells to age and stop functioning properly. Therefore, telomeres act as the aging clock in every cell.
Telomeres can also be shortened by stress, smoking, obesity, lack of exercise and a poor diet. Many scientific studies have shown a strong connection between short telomeres and cellular aging.
For example, the immune system, which normally weakens as we age, is highly sensitive to shortening of telomeres.
I found these articles very interesting and I enjoyed reading about telomeres and their roles as they are something I have not come across before. I hope in the future more awareness will be spread on the effects of passive smoking in pets as I feel it is just as important as the effects in children or other non-smoking adults.
T.A Sciences. 2018. What is a Telomere?. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.tasciences.com/what-is-a-telomere/. [Accessed 16 March 2018].
STV news. 2017. Passive Smoking: How tobacco use could be harming your pet. [ONLINE] Available at: https://stv.tv/news/features/1400013-dogs-found-to-be-victims-of-passive-smoking-in-glasgow/. [Accessed 16 March 2018].
University of Glasgow. 2015. QUIT SMOKING FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR PETS. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.gla.ac.uk/news/archiveofnews/2015/december/headline_438291_en.html. [Accessed 16 March 2018].