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New Study Reveals Smoking’s Impact on Cancer in Dogs

Dogs have been our companions for centuries, and now they’re helping scientists study the risk factors of cancer in humans. A Purdue University study shows that smoke-exposed Scottish Terriers face a sixfold increase in bladder cancer risk, as Indiana Public Media reports. 

Under the leadership of Deborah Knapp, a veterinary oncologist, the study aimed to identify vulnerability factors for canine bladder cancer. Their study focuses on dogs because they share living spaces with humans, offering crucial insights into shared environmental risk factors. 

Scottish Terriers studied for three years

The team of scientists spent three years monitoring 120 Scottish Terriers under the age of six. Owners of these dogs answered a set of questions every six months through a questionnaire.

As per Earth.com, Knapp mentions after studying dogs for years, her team analyzed the difference between dogs who got cancer and dogs who didn’t. They aimed to pinpoint the distinctive risk factors involved. 

The researchers chose the Scottish Terrier because bladder cancer is notably prevalent among this dog breed. In fact, they have a 20 times higher chance of developing bladder cancer than any other breed. 

Knapp explained, “We know that Scotties’ genetics play a huge role in making them vulnerable to cancer.” Therefore, this pronounced genetic influence aids researchers in identifying additional factors affecting the risk of cancer in both dogs and humans. 

She mentioned conducting similar research with mixed-breed dogs would demand hundreds of dogs to reveal a similar risk. Moreover, it would be “more difficult to discern because those dogs are not already genetically inclined to get bladder cancer.”

Alongside medical checkups, the dogs underwent testing for cotinine — a nicotine byproduct — to find smoke exposure. Of the 32 dogs found with bladder cancer, 18 tested positive for cotinine in their urine.

Interestingly, certain Scotties’ had cotinine in their urine despite their owners not being smokers. Scientists speculate this might originate from outdoor sources or third-hand exposure. For instance, dogs can breathe in smoke particles adhering to clothing. 

Knapp stated, “If someone goes out to a smoky concert or party, then comes home and their dog hops up on their lap to snuggle with them, the dog can be exposed to the particulate material in smoke through the person’s clothing.”

Additional factors included bladder infections in the past and living close to a marsh or wetland. The research team believed that insecticide spraying or the buildup of pollutants in the area might be the reason for this environmental factor.

The research findings could have broad application across various dog breeds. Consequently, it could help pet parents keep their environments safe and healthy for their furry friends. 

Furthermore, this study provides an important way to look at what causes cancer in humans, especially since smoking is a significant factor in human bladder cancer.

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