One out of every eight dogs in the United States will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. As much as we love our Rufus or Sasha, we also know that they can’t live forever. While immortality isn’t an option, there are certain steps every pet parent can take in order to potentially prevent and protect their dog from cancer.
As a pet owner, it is your responsibility to ensure your furry companion receives the best possible care and leads a long and happy life. Taking the time to read about simple and important precautions is the initial step to learning about canine cancer and preventative measures.
How to Keep Your Dog Healthy and Cancer-Free
Much like humans, cancer can affect even the healthiest of individuals. Because cancer occurs due to abnormal cell behavior, healthiness can be a loaded word that doesn’t directly correlate to one’s predisposition for cancer development. The same is true for our pets. However, this fact shouldn’t discourage you from doing everything you can to ensure your dog is in their best possible condition.
What your canine friend ingests can impact not only their health but their mood, as well. Too much food or heavy meals can leave them with stomach aches, feeling lethargic or gassy, and uncomfortable. A dog on a proper diet will exhibit both better mental and physical health.
When it comes to feeding your pet, there are two options: buying commercial dog food or prepping and cooking your dog’s food yourself. When choosing to buy packaged food, always research and find the least processed dog foods or ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. If you prefer to prep meals for your dog yourself, the simplest rule to follow is to ask yourself if the food item is naturally occurring. Because dogs descended from wolves, it shouldn’t be surprising that their ideal diet consists mostly of meat alongside a portion of vegetables, especially leafy greens.
However, not all vegetables and fruits are good for your pet. There is discussion in the veterinary community about a few that are definitely toxic (grapes, onion) while others are questionable (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, carrots, any kind of pepper). Fruits, in general, are okay but only in small quantities. Green peas, beets, corn, lettuces, and parsley are all cited as great vegetable additions to your pet’s diet. Kale in particular, or other dark leafy greens, are high in beneficial minerals and nutrients, keeping the bones healthy and protecting your dog from osteosarcoma (bone cancer).
A dog’s lifestyle may not keep them safe from or in danger of developing cancer, but it can provide or deny a dog the necessary tools in fighting cancer. In other words, a healthier dog has a vigorous, strong immune system and well-balanced hormones. These qualities make for a body that can better defend itself from genetic mutations or malignant growths. Part of this lifestyle necessity is exercise.
Frequent activity improves cardiovascular health as well as prevents the development of bone or joint issues later in life. Make time for your dog and yourself to get outside and be active. Whether this means a jog through the neighborhood or throwing the ball around in the back yard – any movement that gets the heart pumping and working is beneficial to Fido and to you. Additionally, movement and exercise will prevent your furry buddy from becoming obese. Certain cancers may have a correlation with being overweight.
Avoidance of Chemicals
Items that we may not consider dangerous can be potentially lethal to your pet, as they contain harmful chemicals linked to the later development of cancer. Household cleaning products should always be kept in a place your dog cannot get to. Most importantly, items utilized frequently outside are important to be aware of: deicing salts, pesticides, and lawn-care products. These items contain harmful chemicals which dogs, especially, are prone to ingest as they may unknowingly eat grass ridden with harsh toxins.
Keep your dog on a leash when roaming the neighborhood so you are able to pull them away from any lawns freshly fertilized with processed chemicals. When it comes to your own lawn, research any lawn products or pesticides before utilizing them. Additionally, other toxic chemicals, like cigarette smoke and paint fumes, should be kept away from your dog at all times.
Protection From the Sun
We are aware of the importance of protecting ourselves from the sun's harmful rays, but did you know dogs can get skin cancer, too? Keep your pet out of the sun in the hours between 10 am and 2 pm, and if you do plan an excursion like a beach day, use sunscreen on your dog and provide a shade barrier like a beach umbrella for your pooch to take refuge under. If you are a fan of gardening and your dog accompanies you outside for lengthy sessions, have a shady area for them to rest and play in.
Routine Physical Exams
Never miss a check-up with your veterinarian, as the best defeat of any cancer is during its early development. Routinely scheduled visits also ensure that your dog is on the right track in terms of their overall health, such as dental and preventative care like prescriptions for heartworm medicine.
Take Key Steps
For dogs, a healthy lifestyle doesn’t vary too much from what we humans would need for a healthy lifestyle as well: nutrient-rich foods, routine exercise, low exposure to toxins or other harmful chemicals, and frequent check-ups with your trusted veterinarian. Your dog is less likely to develop a life-threatening disease if you provide these key preventative measures.