Why Is There So Much Cancer In Pets?

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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.

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Like your articles about our beloved pets. We have two 8 year old cavaliers, Brother and sister with the female just being diabetic. The male just getting over tick bite after 2 rounds of antibiotics. ?????8
    One quick question for you. With diabetes, is it best to give her the 12 units of vetinsulin right after eating or wait 15 minutes and does the time for eating and giving the injection have to be exactly the same time morning and night? My wife says yes while I tend to feed them within an hour before or after their regular time, morning or evening.
    Also the male has had a unknown tick infection for about 6 weeks and is still taking his antibiotics for about another week. He has been given anti tick meds since he was born.
    Can you comment on these quick notes to put me at ease a little. They are great family members and want to keep them as long as they are feeling well. Thanks for your comments.

  2. There can be literally many factors why pets have these disease. Food is a factor if I have to pick one. I know animals and us are so different anatomically speaking but I guess we both are under the same risk. This maybe a pet list but even I can say these applies to me too.

  3. This is interesting.. cancer in pets is at its highest high and knowing the cause can help prevent it..This write up is really helpful..thanks for pointing out the causes..

  4. It’s really saddening that cancer is on the rise among our beloved furry friends. I do hope that with the right diet and proper exercise pets will be saved from the painful and heart breaking disease known as cancer.

  5. I always learn new things everyday from this site. Thanks for the knowledge shared today.

  6. There can practically be a lot of factors. Breed is one although cancer affects everyone regardless. What matters are not how high the stats are but what do we do to help. May it be dogs or us alike.

  7. I love how you enumerate the possible reason why dogs can have cancer. That said, it is quiet sad because cancer is now spreading to our dogs as well? If so then further medications for them is required since we just know human cancer but not dogs. At least mostly.

  8. Very valuable information and applicable to pets and human beings. I think as we evolve and become more aware of causes of cancer, we can increase our life expectancies by taking the necessary precautions. Being mindful of second hand smoke, the ozone and formaldehyde and flame retardants is definitely a step in the right direction. Thanks for this very influential piece.

  9. Looks like man is responsible for the increased cancer levels in our pets. We need to really check our activities.

  10. I never knew second hand smoke had such an effect on pets. I will definitely stop smoking around my dog.

  11. I wish you shared the extent to which each of these factors posed a cancer risk to dogs. It would be interesting to know.

  12. I had no idea that Ozone generated by ionizing air purifiers and printers could cause cancer in dogs. This is news to me!

  13. It seems as though dogs are just as sensitive to the environment as humans. We need to preserve and protect our environment for the benefit of all living creatures.

  14. The rapidly declining air quality is a huge culprit in the rising levels of cancer in our pets. Vehicle emissions are most responsible for this.

  15. I generally don’t like over processed foods for my pets. I prefer to stick with more natural foods.

  16. I try to avoid GMO foods for my pets at all costs. They are extremely harmful and can cause more than just cancer.

  17. In my opinion processed foods and GMO foods are a great contributor to the rising number of pets with cancer. They should be avoided completely.

  18. Governments around the world should come up with laws that reduce the harmful effects of man’s activities on the environment. This can indirectly help to curb the rising cancer cases in pets.

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