Preventing cancer entirely isn’t exactly possible. Carcinogens surround us, and our dogs, on a daily basis. And, genetics come into play. But, there are measures that can be taken to significantly reduce the risk of cancer in our dogs.
Before we continue, if you suspect your dog may have cancer, it’s critical to make an appointment with your veterinarian for an aspirate or biopsy to determine the next steps.
Reduce the Plastic in Your Life
There is an organic compound found in polycarbonate plastics called Bisphenol A, or BPA, that can leak into food and water if you store your dog’s food in plastic containers or allow them to drink from a plastic water dish.
BPA acts similar to the hormone, estrogen, and interacts with cells in your dog’s body. Due to it’s similarities to estrogen, the compound begins binding to estrogen receptors in the body causing cells to multiply. This is part of the theory of how plastic could lead to cancer in our dogs.
You should also be aware BPA can have the same effect in humans; protect yourself and your dog. BPA can be found not only in plastic containers, but also in water bottles, shopping receipt paper, canned good lining, and dental fillings.
Although the EPA does have restrictions regarding BPA, even the ‘safe parameters’ can be hazardous.
Instead of using plastic dog dishes to feed your dog and provide them with drinking water, utilize metal dishes. This alone could make a tremendous difference.
Some pet parents find their beloved dog at the local rescue. Others are searching for a specific breed and may visit a local breeder. Unfortunately, there are some dogs more prone to cancer than others, including Golden Retrievers and Boxers.
Responsible breeders are well-known for determining disease/cancer risk through screening their prospective dog parents-to-be prior to breeding.
Responsible breeders will often provide a lineage chart outlining where your dog came from, mother and father, and higher if they have the ability to do so. Responsible breeders may also have paperwork from their health screenings.
Should I Spay/Neuter?
This is a touchy topic. Spaying and neutering is highly encouraged in the dog world, but it’s a decision that’s worth researching prior to doing so.
According to the Canine Health Foundation, spaying or neutering a dog before sexual maturity can increase cancer risk. Spay-neuter has been found to increase the risk of cancer by up to four times in Golden Retrievers, for example.
It’s not possible to say “do not spay or neuter your dog or they will get cancer,” because it’s not the result in all cases. But, as the pet parent, you should do a bit of digging to determine the pros and cons of spay-neuter for your individual dog.
Keeping your dog healthy with a good diet and exercise is a key element in preventing cancer. Obesity is known to increase the risk of cancer as is a poor diet.
According to Lisa Weeth, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, “there’s some potential correlation between being overweight and certain types of cancers in dogs.”
She continued to add that overweight female dogs may be at particular risk for developing mammary tumors.
Your Lifestyle Affects Your Dog
Environmental factors are part of the risk with canine cancer as well. Second-hand smoke, for example, has been linked to an increased risk of nasal cancer in dogs.
Long-nosed dogs were at particular risk (Dachshund, Collie, Lab).
Short-nosed dogs, also known as brachycephalic, are more at risk for lung cancer in a smoking household (pugs, bulldogs).
All dogs, regardless of breed, are at a higher risk for developing respiratory conditions in this lifestyle.
A well-balanced, healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and staying as far away from cancer-causing agents as possible will significantly reduce your dog’s risk of developing cancer. Diet alone is one of the leading causes of dog cancer (and human cancer) and it’s an element that is in our control. Ensuring our dog receives the nutrition she or he needs is crucial to her well-being, not only for cancer prevention, but also for a healthy, happy life.
Bisphenol A in Canned Dog Food May Increase BPA Concentrations in Pets
Should You Worry About BPA Levels in Your Dog?
BPA: The Danger in Your Dog’s Food
Neutering Dogs: Effects on Joint Disorders and Cancers in Golden Retrievers