Cancer is a diagnosis no pet owner ever wants to hear. Even cancer that is treatable can be life-changing for you and your pet. While we can’t prevent cancer, there are some ways to reduce your pet’s risk of developing this disease. These steps not only reduce your dog’s cancer risk, but also promote longevity and can improve quality of life too. For Pet Cancer Awareness Month, it’s important to stay informed about your dog’s health and we are glad to be a resource that helps you do that.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
It goes without saying that maintaining a healthy lifestyle for your pet is one of the best ways to guard against disease. We don’t know exactly what causes some pets and people to develop cancer, but we know that it’s likely a combination of genetic and environmental factors that play a role. We also know that those who live a healthy lifestyle– with regular exercise, good nutrition, healthy social habits, and plenty of mental stimulation– are less likely to suffer from disease in general than their less active counterparts. Ensuring your pet maintains a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to reduce cancer risk and promote a good quality of life overall.
Avoid Exposure to Potential Toxins
Although it’s impossible to point to a single inciting cause for cancer, exposure to certain chemicals or toxins can increase your pet’s risk. In one study, dogs living in industrial areas or exposed to paints or solvents were at greater risk of developing lymphoma. The same study also identified a significantly lower average age of disease onset in the at-risk population. Similarly, a 2012 study found that dogs exposed to certain lawn care chemicals had an increased risk of developing lymphoma. The same study also examined the use of flea and tick control products and the development of canine malignant lymphoma and did not find any association between the two. In cats, a link between secondhand smoke and an increased risk of developing lymphoma has been suggested.
If you must use potential toxins such as lawn care chemicals, do so away from your pet. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe use and ensure the product has fully dried before allowing your pet access to the lawn. Keep household chemicals like paints, solvents, detergents, and cleaners out of your pet’s reach. If you are a smoker, consider taking your smoke breaks outdoors away from your pet to reduce your pet’s exposure to harmful secondhand smoke.
Avoid Excessive Sun Exposure
Dogs are generally less susceptible to harmful UV rays because their haircoat protects their sensitive skin. However, in areas of the body where the hair is thin, such as around the face, the ears, the armpits, the groin, and on the belly, sun exposure can still cause harm. In both animals and people, exposure to ultraviolet light is directly correlated with the development of squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer. In dogs, this type of cancer is most common in light-colored, short-haired dogs of middle age or older, particularly those who like to sunbathe.
Can dogs get sunburned? The answer is yes. Dogs can get solar dermatitis, an inflammatory condition of the skin that occurs as a result of prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Affected dogs often experience redness and scaling of the skin that progresses to peeling, crusting, and ulceration with repeated sun exposure. These lesions can progress to skin cancer with chronic exposure to the sun.
To help prevent excessive sun exposure, be sure to provide your dog with access to a shady area he or she can retreat to to escape the sun’s rays. This is also important to prevent your dog from developing heat stroke. Some dogs will continue to sunbathe even after they’ve begun to develop solar dermatitis, so be sure to monitor your dog’s sun exposure and check your dog’s skin for signs of redness, inflammation, scaling, and crusting. If your dog shows symptoms of sunburn, see your veterinarian for treatment.
Have Regular Vet Checkups
Regular checkups with your veterinarian are an essential part of keeping your dog healthy. Because our pets can’t tell us how they are feeling, an annual or biannual physical examination is critical to uncover potential problems. Your regular veterinary checkup is also an important time to ask any questions you may have about your dog’s health and well-being, including discussing any changes you may have noticed in your dog’s health or behavior. These subtle changes could be an early sign of canine cancer.
Prevent Your Dog From Becoming Overweight
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, as of 2018, more than half of dogs and cats in the United States were overweight or obese. Studies have shown that overweight and obese dogs are at increased risk for cancer as well as many other diseases. Meanwhile, a 14 year study of Golden Retrievers demonstrated that keeping dogs at a healthy lean body weight could add as much as 2 years to their lifespan. And who wouldn’t love to have their canine companion by their side for an extra two years?
To keep your dog healthy and lean, start by feeding portion-controlled meals. If you’re unsure how much to feed, ask your veterinarian to calculate your dog’s daily calorie requirement. Your veterinarian will use your dog’s current weight and body condition score to determine the right number of calories for you to feed each day to achieve your pet’s ideal weight. You can then divide this number by the number of meals you feed daily to determine how much to feed at each meal. Don’t forget to take into account any treats, table scraps, toppers, or other little snacks and extras your pooch may get– these all count as calories, too!
To prevent your dog from becoming overweight, make sure you don’t exceed his daily calorie requirement. A good rule of thumb is that 90% of his calorie intake should come from his regular dog food, while no more than 10% of his intake should be from treats. Remember, your dog doesn’t need treats and they can contribute to excess weight gain. If you do decide to give them, moderation is key!
Give Your Dog the Right Nutrition
In addition to controlling your pet’s portion sizes, you’ll want to make sure that you’re giving your dog the best nutrition possible. Too many pet owners are duped by clever marketing campaigns into feeding their pets less-than-ideal nutrition. To help you choose the best dog food for your pet, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) recommends talking to your pet food manufacturer and asking them this list of important pet food questions to learn more about how your pet’s food is made. If they can’t or won’t answer the questions, or if the answers are not satisfactory, then their product is not high-quality and should not be fed to your pet!
Canine Biologics Integrated Nutrition System for dogs battling cancer meets and exceeds AAFCO standards, so your dog fighting this disease will get all the nutrients he or she needs from this complete and balanced diet. It’s also 100% human grade, meaning it’s safe, wholesome, and tasty enough for you to eat yourself! With just five high-protein, low-carbohydrate ingredients, the food portion of this nutrition system is simple yet effective for even the pickiest of eaters. Your dog will love the taste, and you’ll love knowing he or she’s getting a healthy and safe diet from a reputable company.
Reducing Cancer Risk
While cancer cannot be entirely prevented, there are steps you can take to reduce your dog’s cancer risk. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, avoiding exposure to toxins, avoiding excessive sun exposure, seeing your veterinarian regularly, and maintaining a lean body weight through good nutrition are essential to keep your dog healthy and reduce the risk of developing cancer. Most importantly, enjoy the time you have with your dog. Your bond with your dog is an important part of your dog’s health and well-being, so make the most of every moment the two of you share together.