Reducing Your Dog’s Cancer Risk
Hello again, everyone. In the past year, I have worked with hundreds of dogs with cancer focusing on the behavioral side of the spectrum. I’ve learned so much more about canine cancer- the behavioral side, the medical side, the causes, and the prevention of cancer. I’d like to share a little of what I’ve learned with you.
I primarily want to talk to you about the currents statistics and ways to reduce your dog’s cancer risk. Cancer rates in dogs are ridiculously high. For the longest time, we have thought cancer was purely genetic. After years of extensive research, scientists have found this isn’t the case. 95% of cancer cases have been found to be caused by lifestyle and environmental influences. That’s right, your dog’s surroundings, what they eat, what they drink, and what they’re exposed to. This means we can take some preventative measures to reduce our dog’s risk of developing cancer in her lifetime.
Why Do Dogs Get Cancer?
This is one common question dog lovers often ask. There’s no truly simple answer to this. But, we have found some information about cancer that could help dog lovers, and scientists, to understand where cancer comes from.
One of the contributors to cancer, which we discussed in a previous article, is our dog’s diet. That’s a major contributor. If you do a bit of digging and search for ‘Rodney Habib and Sugar in the Dog’s Diet’ you’ll find an excellent video, he made discussing this in length.
Our dog’s food (and ours) is usually cooked at fairly high temperatures. When food is cooked at high temperatures, something called heterocyclic amines are created. The heterocyclic amines are not present in food until it’s cooked (not in raw veggies/meats).
We also have preservatives in many of our dogs (and our) foods which are also cancer-causing. The nitrites and nitrates (the preservatives) in our dog’s food are carcinogenic (cancer-causing). We use preservatives, so the shelf life of our dog food is longer… which is extremely convenient. But, the majority of preservatives are harmful to our dog’s body. Nitrites and nitrates are found in most dog foods (commercial or prescription) as well as our foods (hot dogs).
Ethoxyquin is another preservative found in dog food which has been found to be cancer-causing. It’s important to note … you won’t find this ‘ingredient’ on any dog food labels. When dog owners learned that ethoxyquin was cancer-causing, pet food manufacturers received numerous letters requesting its removal. Ethoxyquin was removed as a primary preservative in dog food- but, the fish in pet food has been found to possess amounts of ethoxyquin. So, it’s still there … just not in large quantities.
Don’t Let Your Dog Become Overweight or Obese
Obesity is a contributing factor to dog cancer. And, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, the number of overweight dogs is increasing at an alarming rate each year.
In 2017, 56 percent of dogs were classified as obese. At first, that doesn’t sound like it’s overwhelmingly high, but that’s essentially one in every two dogs. When you think about it from that perspective, that’s pretty high.
What’s worse is most dog lovers don’t realize how the excess weight is affecting their furry best friend. And hence, don’t try to help their dogs lose weight.
Or, the dog owner may not even notice their dog has gained the weight. Weight gain is gradual, it’s not immediate. The weight gain may not be noticed until our dog’s weight has increased significantly. Keeping a close eye on your dog, and catching the weight gain early, will help in getting him back to normal faster.
How to Know if Your Dog is Overweight
If you can’t take a trip to the vet, you can try the ‘rib check’ at home. On a healthy dog, you’re able to feel the ribs under a thin layer of skin. If you need to push into your dog to feel her ribs, there’s a good chance she’s overweight. And if you can’t feel your dog’s ribs at all, that could mean she would be classified as obese.
After you have felt for your dog’s ribs, jot down what you found in a notepad (it’s easier to track your dog’s progress this way). Then, get a side view. Is your dog’s belly sagging toward the floor? If so, this is another sign your dog may be overweight. Dogs with a healthy weight generally have a taper to their stomach. Jot this down, too.
The last way you can check yourself is by standing over your dog. Your dog should have a silhouette like an hourglass. If your dog appears to be rounded from the overhead view, he may be carrying extra pounds.
Not only has obesity been correlated to cancer in dogs, but other conditions have been found to develop in obese dogs as well. Conditions including arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, difficulty breathing, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease have all been connected to canine obesity.
That’s why there’s so much pressure placed on dog owners to keep their dogs lean and fit. And, keeping active with our dogs ensures we stay active, too. It’s a win-win.
Dog Cancer and Pesticide Use
Pesticides have also been correlated to canine cancer. In a study published by Environmental Health, 263 dogs were found to have malignant (cancer) lymphoma. Another 240 dogs with benign (non-cancerous) tumors and 230 dogs who were undergoing surgery were also included in the study.
The researchers from the study requested dog owners complete a survey which asked about their dog’s medical history, the pesticides in the home, and the environment where they lived.
The findings of the study were alarming but were exactly what researchers were thinking they would find. Dogs who had malignant lymphoma were 70 percent more likely to live in homes where pesticides were used. Dogs who were in the advanced stages of malignant lymphomas were 170 percent more likely to live in homes where insecticides were used.
Avoiding pesticides is nearly impossible. Our neighbors likely use pesticides, the town where we live uses pesticides, etc. Everyone wants to walk outside and see beautifully landscaped areas … right? So, pesticide use is extremely common.
There are a few steps you can take to reduce your dog’s exposure, though. First, don’t use pesticides in your own yard. And, if you must use pesticides, look for a formula that doesn’t contain glyphosate or 2,4-D. Glyphosate and 2,4-D are the substances that are the most harmful. You should also wash off all fruits and veggies whether they’re from the store, your local farm, or your home.
Now, you may be wondering if there’s any safe pesticides you can use in your yard. The honest answer is … no. There is no such thing as a ‘safe’ pesticide. Nature didn’t create the pesticides we, as humans, are using. We’re killing our plants with toxic chemicals. The reality of the situation is, the pesticides don’t end at our plants once they’re killed. The pesticides then saturate the Earth’s soil and can be found in our water supply.
I don’t say this to scare you, I just want you to make sure you’re taking all the precautions you can to reduce the chances of your dog, and you, developing cancer.
Foods That Cancer Cells Don’t Like
There’s no way to completely prevent cancer. But, there are foods that help reduce the risk. A study done by researchers at Oregon State University found that chlorophyll in our green veggies blocks the absorption of carcinogens found in our dog’s food. Adding green leafy veggies could significantly help our dog by preventing cancer-causing substances from entering their bloodstream.
The following are several of the most beneficial fruits and veggies:
Kale: Kale is rich in something called carotenoids. Carotenoids reduce free radicals and clear carcinogens out of cells.
Cabbage, Turnips, Brussels Sprouts: These contain substances that protect your dog’s body.
Broccoli: Broccoli increases the production of cancer blocking enzymes.
Blueberries, Raspberries: High in antioxidants
The Bottom Line
I could go on and on about this topic. There’s so much more I want to talk to you about. I want all of you to know as much as possible about canine cancer. If you want to learn more, my articles about canine cancer are available on dogcancerblog.com. If your dog already has cancer, and you are getting treatment from the veterinarian, but you want to know what you can do at home to help, I have a course available at www.e-trainingfordogs.com. The course I teach with e-Training for Dogs offers insight from myself as well as the veterinarian I have worked with for the past year, Dr. Demian Dressler. Dr. Dressler is a world-renowned dog cancer veterinarian and is famous for his book, “The Dog Cancer Survival Guide” which I highly recommend to everyone (even if your dog does not have cancer).
Until next time!