A recent study at the University of Massachusetts and the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine found a connection between the rate of cancer in dogs and the amount of household chemicals used by owners. In addition, it seemed that humans were at a higher risk of getting the same cancers as their pets.
Pet owners share more than just their homes with their pets
Pet owners share their homes, exercise habits, and sometimes even food with their cats and dogs. It also seems that they share some of the same diseases, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and asthma.
Pollutants and other environmental factors in the home may be causing the diseases to present themselves in both humans and pets.
“Because our pets share our environments, they are exposed to many of the same pollutants as us,” said Melissa Paoloni, a veterinary oncologist at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland.
Pets that are low to the ground, and also young children, have higher exposure to lawn and garden pesticides and carpet chemicals than adults do. Lawn care chemicals may increase the risk of canine lymphoma and bladder cancer. Cats are more sensitive to flame retardants, which can cause thyroid disease.
Pesticides may cause lymphoma in both dogs and people
The study revealed that dogs whose owners used lawn pesticides or self-applied insect growth regulators were 70% more likely to have lymphoma. However, flea powders, sprays, and other fur treatments did not increase the risk of lymphoma.
“The close interaction and shared household environments of dogs and their human owners provides a unique opportunity for evaluating how herbicide and pesticide exposure may contribute to human non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” the study authors wrote.
Pesticides may also increase the risk of lymphoma in people. Because adults are taller than their pets (usually) and breathe much further from the ground, they are less likely to contract lymphoma from pesticides. However, some scientists believe even slight amounts of pesticides in the lungs can increase the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in humans.
The effects of environmental pollutants in animals may benefit research on human drugs to prevent these diseases.