Dr. Rob Silver of Colorado State University is on the cutting edge of integrative veterinary cancer management in dogs and cats. I had the distinct pleasure of attending one of his lectures at a recent veterinary conference I attended. The insights I came away with were eye opening with regard to why there is so much cancer in dogs and cats and what proven alternative treatments are available to us to prevent and treat cancer. This article will focus on cancer incidence and prevention in our pets.
One of the most troubling aspects of cancer is the surge of its incidence in pets in the past decade. Statistically, 50% of all pets born in the the last 10 years will ultimately die of cancer. While this is very concerning for our valued furry family members that we love, it should also trouble people as it pertains to future human health. With much shorter life spans than people, disease patterns in dogs and cats (especially dogs that physiologically are a lot like us) often provide a preview of what may be in store for future human populations as we proportionately age.
Dr. Silver highlighted 6 main contributors to the sharp rise of cancer in pets:
1.) GMO derived pet foods
GMO stands for genetically modified organisms. As it applies to food, this refers to genetically modifying seed so that food crops are resistant to damage from spraying herbicide. I just recently wrote an article on GMO and its link to cancer in pets and people, so please refer to this article for more on GMO and why it is likely a contributing factor in the rise of cancer in pets:
2.) Food processing
The processing of pet food has several effects of the quality of food that may promote or worsen cancer. The first is that processing into kibble requires a large amount of high glycemic index carbohydrates. Cancer metabolism differs from the metabolism of normal cells and tissues and thrives on this kind of energy nutrient. High glycemic index carbohydrates play such a prominent role in supporting cancer metabolism that using anti-diabetes drugs have also come to the forefront of management of many types of cancers.
Processed pet foods often contain red dye # 3, a known carcinogen. Processed foods commonly generate glycotoxins, a set of oxidant compounds that create oxidative stress on the body’s tissues and negate the benefits of anti-oxidants in the food.
3.) Rapidly declining air quality
The World Health Organization has declared poor air quality to be the single greatest human health risk of the millennium. Since 2006 to present, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have increased from 375 PPM to 400 PPM and there are no indications that this rise will be curtailed any time soon.
A phenomenon known as ‘ground-level ozone’ occurs when carbon monoxide and other toxic gases interact with one another while being exposed to sunlight. The EPA links ground-level ozone conditions to reduced lung function and chronic inflammation of the airways.
4.) Ozone generated by ionizing air purifiers and printers
The research is still conflicting on the potential cancer causing properties of ozone, but it is worth mentioning that in some studies, ozone has been shown to alter the the growth characteristics of epithelial cells, a cell line of living tissue where cancer commonly arises.
While a direct link of ozone in it purest form (not the ground level ozone as discussed above) generated from air purifiers and printers, it is reasonable to be cautious that any environmental factor that can alter cellular growth cycles could potentially be carcinogenic. A major characteristic of cancer afterall is the unregulated and unrestricted growth and replication of cells.
5.) Second hand smoke
Second hand smoke in the home is significantly more impactful (in a negative way) to pets than to people (and we already know how bad it is for people). Gravity pulls a higher concentration of second hand smoke to the ground level where pets spend a greater majority of their time. The result is a much higher carcinogenic effect in pets.
6.) Formaldehyde and flame retardants in wood, carpets, and curtains
Hardwood floors, furniture, rugs, insulation, and curtains commonly contain the preservative formaldehyde in them, a well known carcinogen. These same fixtures also commonly contain flame retardants such as TDCIPP, a known carcinogen. Pets tend to spend a lot of time on the carpet putting them at great risk of exposure to these potential cancer causing elements in these items
One can clearly see that cancer causing environmental and food considerations surround us. This article is not meant to instill panic among my readers, but instead create awareness of the circumstances that are contributing to a sharp increase in cancer in our pets.
While it is nor realistic that we will eliminate every potential source of carcinogen in our lives and the lives of our pets, depending on our life styles and individual capacities to make changes, being aware of these problems, we can at least chip away at some of these predispositions to cancer and reduce the overall risk.
For example, carpet is old and needs replacement? Consider going for tile or hard wood floors not treated with formaldehyde or flame retardant. Do not smoke in the home. Make dietary changes.
In my next article, I will be highlighting more specific changes that can be made to help prevent cancer in pets. Stay tuned!
Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport. He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.