CANCER - How Can You Help?
Almost nothing is being done to stop the causes of cancer in dogs but there are things that you CAN do to lower the risks. Dr. Larry Glickman, veterinarian and epidemiologist at Purdue University has no doubt that at least some of the cancer in our canine companions is a result of the pesticides and insecticides used in agriculture, household cleaners, paints, toys made of synthetic materials and additives in the food we feed them. We know that many of these agents do cause cancer in people so it is only logical the same applies to our pets.
While the major studies are done for people a few studies have been done with animals. In 1983 Glickman and his colleagues discovered that dogs exposed to asbestos were at risk of getting a rare form of cancer, mesothelioma. It has also been clearly indicated that dogs whose owners smoke are at increased risk of nasal cancer. He says that long nosed dogs are two times more likely to develop nasal cancer and the incidence of nasal cancer increases with the number of packs of cigarettes the household members smoke each day! Short nosed dogs are more likely to develop lung cancer.
Dr. Glickman’s own research, as reported in 1989 in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, indicates female canines exposed to the pesticides in flea sprays and dips are at higher risk of developing bladder cancer than those not similarly exposed. A study done in 2004 that focused on spot-on products such as FRONTLINE* and ADVANTAGE* are not similarly affected. These products, while most definitely pesticides, are “minimally” absorbed into the bloodstream and therefore are not excreted via the bladder or possibly excreted in quite minimal quantities. Research has linked 2-4-D with cancer. This is marketed under names such as Ded-Weed, Lawn-Keep, Plantgard, and others. The Chemical Industry Task Force found no such results in their studies (Imagine that!) but a 1994 study presented in the scientific journal Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, showed that dogs exposed to lawns treated with 2-4-D within seven days of application were 50 times more likely to have high levels of the herbicide in their systems than dogs exposed after 7 days. The highest levels were in dogs that walked on the lawns within two days of application!
In addition to the overall risk to our canines there are, sad to say, some breeds of dogs with incredibly high risks of getting cancer. Scottish Terriers are at 18 times the risk of getting bladder cancer when exposed to lawns sprayed with herbicides when compared to mixed breeds. And the lovely Golden Retriever breed, (not alone in this category!) is 60% more likely to die of cancer than the overall average of 20 to 30 % , says Dr. Larry Glickman.
Diet also plays a huge part in cancer in canines. It is commonly accepted that a female spayed at an early age is at a much lower risk of mammary cancer than an intact female but there is another factor at work here. Diet! One study indicated that dogs overweight at one year of age were 3 times as likely to develop mammary cancer – THREE TIMES! Another study indicated that those females operated on for mammary cancer and fed a diet with “protein greater than 27 percent on a dry matter basis” were likely to live three years following the surgery while females fed a low fat diet and less than 23 percent protein survived less than 6 months. Clearly the quality of the food we feed our dogs gains importance by the day. The cheaper the food the more likely the ingredients have not been carefully screened and will have larger amounts of pesticides, often include chemical “flavoring”, colorings and other additives, and poor quality protein, to say the very least.
The “cheap” foods may not be so cheap after all if we compare the cost to the lives of our dogs.
While we cannot change the world we can avoid subjecting our dogs to pesticides and herbicides that WE opt to spray in our gardens and on our lawns. We can avoid harmful pesticides that are used to bathe our dogs and are sprayed on them. We can stop using harmful products to wash the floors in the house and to clean any surface the pets may come in contact with their feet or have to smell. We can stop smoking or at the very least not smoke in the house where they spend so much time. We can use organic products to a much greater extent than we do. And, finally, we can feed them so much better than we do.
*Use caution with ANY such elements introduced into your dog’s life. Always seek less invasive ways to solve problems. At this time - 2015 - there are many reports that various spot-on flea/tick treatments are no longer as effective. Resistance appears to be a clear issue.