One of the most devastating illnesses in dogs today is cancer. It is a disease that can come up quickly and somewhat unexpectedly. Cancer can also spread rapidly leading to devastating results.
So how can we fight cancer? Can cancer be prevented? Is there a cure for cancer? We will explore these questions in the article.
What Is Cancer?
Though the disease can be complex it can be simply defined. A dog’s body comprises many living cells. Most of these cells are constantly regenerating and dividing. This process consistently provides new cells to keep the body performing at its peak. Cancer occurs when these cells behave abnormally. Abnormal behavior can mean that these cells are regenerating too rapidly, or reproducing in the wrong part of the body.
Why Does Cancer Occur?
Cancer can occur for different reasons. These two below are the main factors behind the disease.
Some dogs can be born with mutations that affect how cells regenerate. Abnormal regeneration of cells often lead to cancer later on in life.
Exposure to Carcinogens
Carcinogens are chemicals that can interfere with normal cell functions. Some examples of carcinogens include cigarette smoke, household cleaners, radiation, certain preservatives in foods, and insecticides.
How Can Cancer Be Prevented?
While there is not a way to %100 prevent cancer in dogs, there are ways to reduce the incidence.
Early Detection Is the Key
Make sure you have regular visits with your veterinarian especially if your dog is older. You should also consider having bloodwork yearly once your pet reaches 6 years old. It also isn’t a bad idea to have x-rays of the chest and abdomen which may detect any abnormalities early on.
Avoid Exposure to Carcinogens
Avoid smoking around your pets. There are many chemicals in cigarette smoke that may contribute to cancer in dogs.
Avoid Using Harsh Household Chemicals Around Your Pet
If you have to do any major household cleaning, it is best you place your dog in a daycare or boarding facility to avoid exposure.
Feed Your Dog a Well Balanced Diet
What you feed your dog can make a difference. A poor diet especially if it consists of human food, may consist of many preservatives and other undesirables that can contribute to cancer activity.
Can Cancer Be Cured?
Believe it or not there are some cancers if caught early enough that can be cured. Unfortunately most cancer in dogs are not caught until the cancer is far advanced making treatment challenging or unsuccessful. Fortunately, treatment and diagnostic options are advancing through time which has been of a great benefit.
Treatment Options for Cancer
There are several treatment options for cancer depending on the diagnosis. However, whether these options are successful depend mostly on how early the cancer is detected.
Chemotherapy and Radiation
These are most commonly used to treat cancer. Their use depends on the location and the stage of cancer diagnosed. Unfortunately, they come with side effects and can be costly for many dog owners.
Regarding, surgery , if cancer is caught early enough, it can effectively cure some type of cancers. A biopsy would be needed to confirm this. The ideal situation would be that enough of the tumor is removed during surgery where all the cells associated with it are removed as well.
There are several holistic treatments involving the use of antioxidants and nutrition to help fight certain cancers.
This treatment involves temporarily relief of certain cancers and common involves the use of steroids to help calm down inflammation associated with most cancers.
As a veterinarian, cancer is one of my least favorite illness to treat and diagnose. Though you as a dog owner can’t 100% prevent all cancers, you can still play your part. Remember early detection is key and controlling what your dog is exposed to can be a huge benefit.
Dwight Alleyne, DVM
Dwight Alleyne, DVM is the author of the Animal Doctor Blog, a blog that provides veterinary information about cats and dogs through articles and product reviews. He has almost 20 years of animal experience with 10 years as a veterinary technician and more than 9 years as a veterinarian. He currently practices in Georgia at a small animal practice where he provides veterinary services through surgeries and medical consultations. When he is not working, Dr. Alleyne enjoys spending time with his wife, daughter, and 7 year old cat named Queen.