Volume No. 18 Issue No. 2 February 2021  

Dr. Jim Humphries
  How to help your dog avoid cancer
  Dr. Jim Humphries

     For about a year, Iíve focused this column on cancer in our pet animals because it is so prevalent. What causes this common killer and what can we do to prevent it?
   Sadly, many cancers have a genetic cause, which means thereís not much a new puppy owner can do to avoid it. The genes are there and you canít change that. Yet there are certain choices you can make to minimize the risk of your pup developing the dire disease. First, donít get a dog on impulse. Research the breeds of dogs that have a high prevalence of cancer and stay away from them Ė- or at least expect more than half of them to develop a fatal cancer in old age. Donít get me wrong, Iím not suggesting we ban these dogs. I love Great Danes, and Iíve lost my last three to cancer at 9 years of age. But we have two more because we love them. Just be aware of what you are getting into.
   Right now, the list of most cancer-prevalent dogs is topped by the Golden retriever, (60% of Golden retrievers will develop cancer. This is more than double the average of all other breeds.) Also boxers, the Bernese mountain dogs, (half of these dogs will die of cancer), Rottweilers, Great Danes, German shepherds, poodles (about 40% of all standard poodles will die of cancer), cocker spaniels (about a quarter of all cockers will die of cancer), Dobermans, where the females will so often develop mammary cancer; and beagles, with a quarter of these sweet dogs dying of lymphoma, osteosarcoma and bladder cancer.
   Responsible breeders†of these dogs screen their breeding stock for common cancers. If youíre acquiring a cancer-prone breed, there are ways to help avoid a heartbreaking diagnosis down the line. Work with a responsible, registered breeder who has paid attention to cancer in their lineage and worked to exclude it. A good rule of thumb for welcoming any dog into your life is to verify that the breeder has performed†health testing†for the breedís commonly associated conditions.
   Next, in the prevention arsenal is the decision of when to spay or neuter. There are plenty of studies that indicate spaying or neutering a puppy before sexual maturity can increase the risk of developing certain cancers. Iíd like to tell you to have a conversation with your veterinarian about this, but way too many have not paid attention to this critical issue. It is hard to make a blanket recommendation, but we do know it is important to not spay or neuter your pet too early! The current research states right now ó wait! For example; for Great Danes we wait until about 2 years, for smaller breeds you can spay or neuter at about 12 months or so. That is much longer than previously thought.
   Nutrition is next. On a day-to-day level, the most important thing you can do to help keep your dog fit, healthy and cancer-free is to†1) manage their weight, and 2) feed them the highest quality food you can buy! If you put low-cost junk into your pets most of their lives, they have a much higher risk of developing cancer. If a pet food is not at least $1 to $2 per pound, it falls into the junk category.
   Certain supplements may improve their chances of remaining cancer-free. Fish oils have been found to improve cognitive function by helping to prevent damage to brain cells. They might also help prevent damage to other cells in the body. Since cancer is caused by damaged cells growing unchecked, supplementing with these items may help protect against the development of some of the DNA damage that can lead to cancer.
   Also healthy lifestyle choices make a difference! For instance, a study from Colorado State University†has shown that secondhand smoke is linked to an increased risk of nasal and lung cancers in dogs. Sunlight is also a risk factor, especially if you have a dog with light pigmentation. Keep such dogs out of the sun during the hottest hours of the day.
   Also, pesticides, herbicides and insecticides can all increase the risk of various kinds of cancer in dogs. Studies have also found that paints, solvents and insecticides could be linked to higher rates of canine cancer. So just as you would avoid such things, itís a good idea to keep your dog away from them also.
   In conclusion, cancer is the type of disease that will take our best friends from us, often in a painful, sad way. Taking preventative measures is about the only tool we have that can give our dogs the best possible chance of avoiding cancer.

   Dr. Jim Humphries is a veterinarian and provides hospice and end-of-life care for pets in the Colorado Springs area. He also serves as a visiting professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. He lives in Falcon with his wife, horses and Great Danes. www.HomeWithDignity.com
   Pet Adoption Corner 2 photos
   Delilah and Dexter, both 2 years old, came to PYRescue together after their owners were killed in a car accident. The dogs were in a feral environment; however, they both are very friendly but can be a little shy. They get along with the others dogs at the rescue nicely. We were told Dexter likes to go on walks. They are very new to PYRescue, and we hope to learn more about them.†
   If interested in Delilah and/or Dexter or to see the complete list of available dogs, please visit https://www.pyrescue.org and fill out an adoption application.†
   If you canít adopt right now, there are many ways you can help Pyrescue by either volunteering, sponsoring a dog and/or donating. Forms and links to our Amazon list can be found on our website.†
   Please contact us if you want to help at 719-749-2187 or email dagmarn@q.com. Thank you!
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