Cigarettes a Proven Cause of Cancer in Dogs and Cats

Smoking Causes Cancer in Dogs

Not only is smoking bad for your health, but the secondhand smoke can be very dangerous for those around you and can cause cancer in dogs.

Now, while that is something that has been known for a while, what many people aren’t aware of is that the dangers of secondhand smoke extend to our pets. It is now believed that cigarettes are responsible for a number of cases of cancer in dogs and cats.

A number of studies are coming out, one from Colorado State University and one from Tufts, stating that cigarette smoke can be tied to various cases of cancer in dogs and cats. The tests have linked smoke to both nasal and lung cancer in dogs, and lymphoma and allergies in cats. Both species respond to smoke with intensified respiratory problems.

As it stands, cancer in dogs and cats has the highest mortality rate among any veterinary condition. The Morris Animal Foundation and veterinarians everywhere have known this for years. So if exposure to cigarette smoke increases their chances of contracting this life threatening disease, why smoke in front of them?

When Cancer in Dogs Hits Home

Cancer in Dogs due to Smoking

Shirley Worthington had been smoking for the better part of her life. She started when she was a young teen, and continued to smoke heavily — and indoors — throughout her dog’s entire life.

One day when her dog Tigger started bleeding from the mouth, Shirley rushed over to the vet only to find out that the diagnosis was cancer. Unfortunately, Tigger did not make it. And what is worse is that Shirley knew that the disease was brought on by her habit.

A silver lining to this story exists, however. Shirley, along with her mother and sister, all quit smoking after Tigger’s passing. And while her mother still passed after a lifetime of smoking, Shirley and her sister are both cancer free.

The Takeaway

Cancer in dogs caused from humans

While it will take a few more years to uncover just how large a role second hand smoke plays in the development of cancer in dogs and cats, we can be certain that it is a substantial amount — where there is smoke there is fire.

So if you smoke cigarettes, for the sake of your pet’s (or anyone’s) health, keep it an outside habit. Their tiny lungs will thank you.

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ABC News – Second Hand Smoke as Harmful to Pets as People


Are Laser Toys Bad for Your Dog?

Laser toys

Few things are as entertaining as watching dogs frantically chase after a laser toys. If you need proof, just watch this video.

However, as fun as it is for us to see them go nuts for that elusive red dot, it could be messing with their head.


Animal Behaviorist and Tufts Professor Dr. Nicholas Dodman believes that laser toys play on our dogs’ natural instinct to chase, without giving them the reward of catching it. “They can’t help themselves. They are obliged to chase it,” said Dodman to the Huffington Post.

Anything that darts around (such as a laser light) triggers our dogs’ inherent need to chase prey — which, as it happens, is why so many prey animals stop dead in their tracks when they suspect they have been spotted. Dogs are, by nature, highly tuned motion sensors. And when something triggers that impulse, they respond the only way they know how — by chasing.

But unlike a rabbit or a tennis ball, a beam of light is not something that can be caught, making a game of “chase-the-laser” one devoid of any possibility for winning. This inability to actually catch the laser can end up wearing on a dog’s psyche. If a dog is constantly chasing after something they can’t catch, it is bound to stress them out. In fact, it may even drive them a little bit crazy.

“I’ve seen light chasing as a pathology where they will just constantly chase around a light or shadow and pounce upon it. They spend their whole lives wishing and waiting,” says Dodman.


Instead of teasing your dog with a laser toy, if you want to work out your dog’s prey instinct, why not simply play a game of fetch? Rolling a ball across the floor gives them everything they need out of a game — the anticipation, the chase, and the reward.

However, if you simply cannot give up the laser, at least find a way to incorporate treats into the laser experience. Perhaps you leave a treat on the floor and lure them over to it with the dot. Get creative with it. Just don’t let your dog go unrewarded, or they may develop a complex.


Laser it up!

Cat’s, Dr. Dodman observed, are less likely to become obsessive and develop behavioral conditions as a consequence of not being rewarded. This is because they generally have a much shorter attention span than their canine counterparts, meaning that they are likely to lose interest in the beam rather than get all worked up over not being able to catch it.

RELATED STORY: Is My Cat Weird? 5 Freaky Feline Behaviors

However, there are exceptions to the rule, and if you notice your cat starting to show signs of obsession, stop playing with the laser. But until then, feel free to shine on, you crazy diamond.

Will you stop using the laser with your dog? Leave a comment and let us know, and sign up for PetPlus, a benefit program for pet owners that provides member-only access to medications at wholesale prices, plus discounts on food, supplies, vet visits, boarding, and more.

Huffington Post – Why Laser Toys Can Be Bad News for Your Pet



Studying Play Behavior Proves Dogs Are Mindful of Others


The fact that dogs play comes as no surprise — it makes up a large part of our everyday interactions with them. That being said, there’s a lot to be learned about how our dogs perceive the world simply from observing them at play.

The Study

Marc Bekoff, a professor at UC Boulder, has been studying animal behavior since the early ‘70s, and in that time, has amassed a large amount of footage of dogs, wolves, and coyotes interacting within their communities. In that footage, Bekoff notes some interesting behaviors exhibited by these naturally social creatures.


For one, those cartoon-esque dust balls of claws and teeth our dogs consider “play” can, in fact, be construed as something more akin to a dance, with agreed upon steps and etiquette. During play, dogs have been observed as bowing to initiate, giving up a clear advantage in size to level the playing field (e.g., a Rottweiler laying on his back so a Yorkie might stand a chance), and ostracizing dogs that disregard the agreed upon rules (playing too rough).

In the Beginning…

Dogs play instinctively, and a large part of playing is the facilitation of the development of pups — teaching them skills they will later use while hunting or defending their den. And though there are numerous practical applications for playing that are visible on the surface, to say that those are the only reasons our canine compatriots play turns out to be a bit shortsighted.


Pack culture, in many ways, resembles a rudimentary society — there is a hierarchy (alpha dog), a sense of community (social grooming, playing), as well as borders and boundaries. Playing exists in part to train and prepare pups for adult life, but if survival was the only endgame, why would these social creatures continue playing into adulthood? In play you expend energy, open yourself up to an injury, and leave yourself open to an attack. So why do adult dogs play?

It must be fun!

What We’ve Learned

Not only do dogs play for fun — they adhere to a specific code of ethics that separates play from fighting, showing that dogs are capable of expressing their intent as well as understanding the intent of others. For example, when a dog “bows” before a game, they are showing others that they are looking to play.


Bekoff also noted other, less readily observable behaviors he discovered from watching his tapes. A subtle narrowing of the eyes during play says to the other dog, “You’re playing a little too rough,” at which point the other dog either takes the hint, or the squinting dog stops playing. Also, dogs typically won’t start playing with another dog until they have their attention and approval, which shows that, not only do dogs want play to be a mutually agreed upon sport, but they also have a surprising awareness of whether someone else is paying attention to them.

This type of communication shows that dogs are truly aware, in no small part, of other animals’ thoughts and emotions — a trait previously thought to be reserved for humans. “That’s why we can have such a deep relationship with them,” says Bekoff, “When we study play in dogs, we study ourselves.”

What do you think? Can dogs understand how others are feeling? Do dogs show signs of morality? Leave a comment and let us know, and consider signing up for PetPlus, a benefit program for pet owners that provides member-only access to medications at wholesale prices, plus discounts on food, supplies, boarding and more. 

Washington Post – In dogs’ play, researchers see honesty and deceit, perhaps something like morality


Dogs Can Detect Prostate Cancer 4x Better Than Modern Tests

Finally, we have found a way to capitalize on our dogs’ long-standing affinity for sniffing rear ends.

Recent studies are showing that trained dogs are nearly four times better than modern testing when it comes to detecting prostate cancer.

The Facts

Prostate-specific antigen (or PSA) tests, in which blood is tested for a protein produced by the prostate, have been the most reliable and least invasive way to determine whether or not a man has prostate cancer. However, even that test frequently produces a false positive. In fact, 75% of positive PSA tests turn out to be incorrect, meaning that 3 out of 4 people receiving the bad news had no reason to be put under such stress.

Our canine compatriots, on the other hand, can detect prostate cancer with roughly 90% accuracy. And while this may be initially surprising, should it be? Dogs have been used for their keen sense of smell for hundreds of years. From tracking game, to sniffing out drugs and explosives, dogs’ well-honed schnozzes have been exceptionally useful tools for numerous tasks. And pair that with their ability to learn and perform various jobs, it should come as no surprise that, with the proper training, dogs can detect nearly anything.

RELATED STORY: Your Dog Knows Your Smell, Even From Afar

How Do These Dogs Do it?

Dogs have the ability to pick up scents that are as diluted as one part per thousand, thanks to their 200-million-some-odd nasal olfactory receptors (compared to the paltry 6 million we humans are equipped with). It’s that keen sense of smell that makes dogs such natural trackers. In order to use that ability to detect cancer, dogs can be specially trained to sniff out certain chemicals produced by prostate tumors in urine.

In a recent study by Dr. Jean-Nicolas Cornu of Tenon Hospital, out of the 66 tests that were done, Medical Detection Dogs were spot on 63 times, with only 3 false positives in the batch. That is an almost unheard of success rate for a test of this nature.

Skeptics are bringing up some concerns with the initial test, saying the sample size is too small to be making claims, or that the dogs may have been picking up on subconscious cues from researchers. Still, this test does open up the a whole new way to think about testing for diseases.

What do you think about using dogs to help detect cancer? Leave a comment and let us know! Also, consider signing up for PetPlus, a benefit program for pet owners that provides member-only access to medications at wholesale prices, plus discounts on food, supplies, boarding and more.

Counsel Heal – Dogs are Four Times More Effective Than Prostate Cancer Tests
WebMD – Dogs Sniff Out Prostate Cancer
Daily Mail – Dogs are FOUR times better at detecting prostate cancer than traditional tests


Dogs Can Do Math


People often think that dogs are not capable of reasoned thinking, but recent studies prove that many dogs are capable of fantastic feats. One of the more miraculous tasks dogs are now undertaking happens to also be taught in schools to children across the globe — math!

While these dogs are not learning how to calculate the hypotenuse of an isosceles triangle, or how to solve for X, they are surprising handlers with their ability to perform some basic arithmetic (albeit VERY basic).

Meet Poco, The Counting Labrador

Poco is a Black Lab with one of these exceptional skills — he can count. And though he can only count to five, for a canine that is still a pretty remarkable feat. Poco shows off his ability through a modified game of fetch.

How it works is his handler holds out up to five identical toys, shows Poco how many toys he has, and tosses them all across the yard. Once the toys are all strewn out, Poco begins the hunt, bringing back one toy at a time. “Poco, fetch!” says Poco’s handler every time he returns with a toy, and Poco heads back out to search for another toy. Once the number of toys is reached, the handler repeats the command “Poco, fetch!” to which Poco replies with a knowing bark, signifying that all the toys have been collected.

So, if the handler tosses out three toys, the fourth time he says “Poco, fetch!” Poco responds by heeling and barking “No more toys, dummy!” proving that Poco can, in fact, count up to five.

Doggies Doing Math

In another study, dogs were given a test similar to one given to infants, used to determine whether babies are capable of grasping basic arithmetic. Pinning itself on the principle of “preferential viewing,” or that we have a tendency to focus longer on something unexpected, in this test, the expected would be 1+1=2, and the unexpected being 1+1=1 or 1+1=3.

The test works like so:

The experimenter shows the dog a treat on the table. He then puts up a screen, blocking the treat from view. Then, he shows the dog a second treat, placing it down beside the first treat, still out of view. Finally, he removes the screen.

The test (or trick, depending on how you look at it) comes into play when the results are revealed. Sometimes, behind the curtain there are the two treats, side by side, just like one would rightfully infer. No surprise there. Other times, just one treat would be there, causing the dog to stare more intently, as if to question, “What happened to the second treat?” Or, in some tests, the curtain will be removed to reveal three treats, causing the dog to focus in the same way, asking, “Where did that extra treat come from?”

The fact that the dogs responded to the test in much the same way as babies shows that they have a capacity for understanding the basic principles for addition. Not exactly groundbreaking, but for a dog, still pretty impressive.

Source: Modern Dog Magazine — Mutts Doing Math: Not So Far Fetched

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Dog Scents: Your Dog Knows Your Smell, Even From Afar

Lets talk dog scents. Dogs love to sniff around. It is a major part of how they experience their surroundings; but did you know that your dog could probably pick your scent out of a lineup, even when you aren’t around?

In a recent study, piggybacking on recent developments in getting dogs to sit still for an MRI scan, 12 dogs were put through an MRI and presented with a sampling of different smells. Their brain patterns were recorded and analysed, helping to determine what type of scent produced the strongest response.

The Study

Each dog, once inside the machine, was made to smell five different scents: their own odor, an unknown dog, a dog they know, a person they don’t know, and a human member of their household. The study made sure to choose a member of the household that was not present during the study, since each dog required a handler throughout the study, and it would have skewed the results if the scent came from a person with whom they had recently interacted.

The results of the study were not far off base of what was hypothesized — each scent evoked a similar response, with familiar odors causing a stronger reaction. There were, however, a few details that surprised the researchers.

While nobody was surprised that the dogs had a stronger response to familiar scents, the fact that they only displayed a positive reaction to familiar people was a bit of a shock. One would have assumed that the scent of a familiar dog would be cause for joy as well, yet it seems that positive association is a response reserved for their people. Also, this positive association to familiar human scents drastically increased in those that were trained service dogs.

RELATED STORY: 20 Dog Commands You Need to Know

The conclusion

This study confirms the belief that dogs are capable of remembering smells that they are familiar with, both human and canine, and that they draw a stronger connection with the people they live with than other members of their own species.

For the researchers, this study provided some useful insight. “Dogs play many important roles in military operations. By understanding how dogs’ brains work, we hope to find better methods to select and train them for these roles,” said project leader Gregory Berns.

RELATED STORY: Salute to US War Dogs: An Infographic on Military Dogs

So, while this study gives us the warm fuzzies — confirming that our dogs love us and miss us —  for the researchers, this added insight into what triggers the strongest response in the doggy brain will help to pinpoint the best ways to train a service dog.

View more from Sam Bourne

What do you think? Why might our dogs respond strongly to our scent? Leave us a comment below!