The “C” word. Really scary. For those with older dogs, or breeds predisposed to cancer, it’s good to know influences and what to look for. And, the list of different types of cancer is long. Here are some generalities, and advice for making sure your dog stays healthy.
- understand that cancer is caused by genetic and environmental exposures
- reduce inflammation
- find out exactly what it is anytime a lump is removed
- consider all treatment options
- wait if you see a mass
- feed kibble or foods with grains
- give up just because you receive the cancer diagnosis
Studies in humans have found genetic links to cancer. But not everyone who has the genetic trait develops cancer. The same is true for our dogs. Just because Scottish Terriers are predisposed to cancer, especially in the bladder, doesn’t mean they will all develop cancer. There are clearly other factors at work. What is important to know is what cancer your dog’s breed is more likely to get. Then you know what to look for, take preventative measures, and/or catch things early, if they happen.
Shedding is your key. If your dog sheds year-round, he/she has inflammation. What is inflammation anyway? Inflammation is the body saying something doesn’t agree with it. Certainly inflammation gone wrong can develop into cancer. Early stages of inflammation displays as shedding in our dogs. The primary things that cause shedding: inappropriate diet, overuse of vaccines and medication and stress. Diets based on meats, no grains, and filled with antioxidants will help reduce inflammation.
Saving $100-200 dollars by not sending a lump to the lab may cost your dog in the future. If you don’t know now, you have less information on which to act later.
Not just surgery or chemotherapy, but also look at herbal regimens. There are some exciting new products with well-documented studies that can help in certain types of cancer. Some cancers are treated by surgery, some by chemotherapy, some with herbs, and some with a combination thereof. There are immune boosting mushrooms, herbal blends like Essiac Tea, and essential oils like frankincense for example. If your vet or veterinary oncologist doesn’t know all the options, keep looking. There are those who do.
Vaccinations contain stimulants, may contain mercury, and work to ramp up the immune system. An over-ramped immune system can attack itself, and is a contributor to some types of cancer. Dogs can have tumors at the actual spot where the vaccine was given years before. Cancer can also develop away from the injection site: spleen, pancreas, liver, bone, the list goes on. Current vaccination guidelines suggest that vaccinating every 3 years is better for our dogs, decreasing their chances of side effects and tumors. Unless there is strong reason for a non-core vaccine, stick to the basics. Review core vaccines (rabies, distemper, parvo) with your vet and be sure you are doing the right thing for your dog.
It is common practice for lumps in the skin that are freely moving, non-painful and still have fur to watch them. It is presumed these are fatty masses. However, I’ve seen patients where what presented as a fatty mass was actually a mast cell tumor. At the least, have a biopsy (stick the lump with a needle and have it examined under the microscope) performed. For masses that change size quickly, are painful, lose hair, interfere with movement or any body function – don’t wait to have the lump checked out. The sooner you determine what it is, the better your chances of helping your dog.
Grains and starches are known to feed cancer cells, helping tumors grow faster and bigger. Many canine cancer patients who are looking for everything they can do to slow progression switch their dogs to a real food diet, some even opt to feed raw as it is least inflammatory. While raw diets are not for every pet owner, real food is at least the dietary ticket to slow progression.
Often, we can coexist with our tumors for quite some time. While cancer makes us worry for quality of life, as long as our best friend is still doing his or her favorite thing, quality of life is still good. And, there have been times a diagnosis is not exact. And, there may be treatments possible. Even if chemo and radiation are not possible, by reducing inflammation our dogs may live in balance with their tumors for some time.
Cancer is a very scary diagnosis. To give your dog the best help possible, do what you can to decrease inflammation before the diagnosis, know what your dog is susceptible to and search all avenues if the diagnosis ever comes. The sooner you know what you are dealing with, the sooner you can help your dog fight cancer.