Preventing Cancer In Dogs: 8 Ways To Minimize The Risk

Whether you cherish a Chihuahua, adore an Akita or are partial to a pooch of a different breed, there are a few basic things you want to give your dog. A happy home. The perfect name. Most important, the healthiest life possible.

One threat to canine health is cancer. More than 6 million dogs are diagnosed with this dreaded disease each year. Fortunately, many types are treatable and some cancers can even be cured, and research on innovative new treatments is ongoing. Ideally, your dog never has to go through the cancer journey, but cancer can strike any breed, and dogs, like people, are more susceptible as they age. There is no way to guarantee that a dog won’t develop cancer — but there are many steps you can take as a loving pet parent to at least minimize the risk. Here are eight suggestions that can help:

Provide A Healthy, Balanced Diet

Good health is built on a foundation of good nutrition. Dogs need good quality ingredients, vitamins, and minerals just like people do, and that means a healthy and balanced diet is best. Exactly what that entail varies depending on many factors, including (but not limited to) your dog’s breed, their age, their level of activity and their medical history. There are many dog food options on the market and many claims about how beneficial a certain brand or diet is. You might find conflicting advice, and it can all get pretty confusing. So, seek recommendations from your veterinarian, and if you do some of your own research, try to rely on clinical studies and/or peer-reviewed scientific studies.

Provide Exercise To Help Maintain A Lean Body Weight

There’s some crossover here with providing a healthy diet, which certainly contributes to a healthy weight. In addition to choosing healthy foods, a lean body weight will require portion control and exercise. One reason to keep your dog lean or at their ideal weight is that fat tissue can cause an inflammatory reaction, which can be a precursor to cancer. Ample exercise can also help regulate hormones that keep the body functioning properly.

Avoid Asbestos & Lawn Chemicals

Environmental factors such as exposure to chemicals can impact the risk of a dog developing cancer. Lymphoma, which is treatable but typically cannot be cured, is one of the most common types of canine cancer, and environmental stressors are sometimes the cause. Avoiding chemical exposure is ideal but not always easy. Even a leading lawn care company that calls health and safety its top priority recommends not allowing a pet onto the lawn until the application dries — for which the exact time is guesswork, to some degree, depending on the weather. As with asbestos exposure for humans, you do not want your dog to inhale these chemicals and fibers, as some lawn chemicals may promote cancer in canines. Even if you don’t use a lawn service, there’s a danger of chemicals washing in from a neighbor’s yard if it rains, if it’s watered extensively or if you live near farmland.

Avoid Secondhand & Thirdhand Smoke

The dangers of secondhand and thirdhand smoke are different for dogs than for humans, but they still exist. For instance, lung cancer is very rare in dogs — but studies have determined that pets that are consistently exposed to secondhand and thirdhand smoke face an increased risk of developing nasal cancers, such as carcinomas and sarcomas. For nasal tumors, radiation therapy is typically the treatment of choice. Thirdhand smoke and its toxins can linger on floors or on a dog’s fur, toys, food and water.

Avoid Excessive Sun Exposure

Many dogs love the outdoors, so avoiding extensive exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can sometimes be challenging. Dogs that are outside for hours on end on a regular basis can develop solar-induced cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma, especially in areas that are less pigmented, such as around the nose. Fortunately, dogs don’t experience skin cancer to the same degree as humans. Plus, you can apply sunscreen to a susceptible area if your dog doesn’t lick it off. But always remember to check with your veterinarian first before adding the sunblock!

Do Your Homework On Your Dog’s Breed History

Although no dog breed is completely immune to cancer, some breeds are more likely to develop certain types of cancer. Knowing the history of your dog’s breed can guide you to look for specific symptoms, leading to earlier detection and potentially a better outcome. For example, Golden Retrievers, Boxers, Scottish Terriers, Rottweilers and Bullmastiffs seem to develop lymphoma more than other breeds. Knowing this means you can frequently and proactively check for enlarged lymph nodes or other lymphoma-specific signs. If you obtained your dog from a breeder, ask questions specifically about conditions and disease (cancers) in their line.

Conduct At-Home Checks For Early Detection

Regardless of your dog’s breed history, it’s a good idea to occasionally conduct “exams” on your own. While not the same as a veterinarian doing a medical examination, you can feel for lumps all over your dog’s body, and you can monitor stools and urine for irregularities. Keep an eye on your canine’s appetite and activity level. Report changes to your veterinarian. Early detection matters because smaller tumors are easier to treat and the cancer has had less time to spread.

Visit Your Vet For Periodic Exams

Regular wellness checks conducted by a veterinary professional go well beyond the home checks you can perform. In addition to a complete physical examination and rectal, bloodwork and urinalysis can detect issues you could not have noticed. Plus, there’s no substitute for expertise and experience.

PetCure Oncology Is Here For Your Dog

While there’s no guaranteed way of preventing cancer in dogs, there’s also no downside to putting these tips into practice to reduce the risk. It can also be comforting to know that if a dog is stricken with cancer, a better outcome is more likely if that dog is healthy. A dog’s condition may factor into treatment protocols, such as whether it can handle anesthesia. As a dog owner, you can also take comfort in knowing that there are veterinary oncologists who specialize in treating cancer. Further, innovative treatments are available, such as Stereotactic Radiation, which uses higher doses of radiation but requires only one to three treatments rather than the 15 to 21 typically needed for traditional radiation.

At PetCure Oncology, we offer a wide range of cancer treatments and specialize in Stereotactic Radiation. More important, we are passionate about providing your dog with the best care possible, and we are truly compassionate in the way we go about that. To learn more, contact a location near you today.

The contents of this article were provided in part by Dr. Renee Alsarraf, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology), a board-certified veterinary medical oncologist and member of PetCure Radiation Oncology Specialists (PROS).

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