Caring for your Senior Dog

May is Pet Cancer Awareness Month and it is a valuable opportunity to educate yourself about the prevention and treatment of cancer in our pets and to share the knowledge with others. It’s important to know that there are some dog breeds more prone to cancer than others.

Pet Cancer is no different than human cancer and can be caused by an assortment of genetic and environmental factors and vary in rarity and aggressiveness.

Which Dog Breeds Are More Prone to Cancer

While all dogs can develop cancer throughout their lives, there are a few breeds that face a higher genetic disposition. According to the Veterinary Cancer Society, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers have a 70-80% chance of developing cancer at some point in their lives.

The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation reports that older dogs are more vulnerable and that up to half of dogs aged ten and older will develop cancer.

Cancer is the number one cause of death in dogs and statistics show that one in four dogs develop cancer in their lifetime.

These facts highlight the importance of Pet Cancer Awareness Month and our responsibility as pet owners to learn and educate about the ways we can fight and treat cancer in dogs and all pets for that matter.

Read also: Factors to Consider Before Buying Dog Insurance

Here are some of the most important things to know during Pet Cancer Awareness Month:

Diet Matters

While it has become common practice to invest in the same brand and style of dog food for their entire lives, research shows that this is not the ideal diet for a dog’s health. There is a proven link between our dogs’ diets and the development of cancer.

Standard dog foods commonly found on the market contain high amounts of grains. They’re often contaminated with toxins like aflatoxin B1, which causes cancer. The carbohydrates from the grains and corn included in our dogs’ kibble are transformed into sugar in their bodies, fueling cancer cells.

We even need to be cautious about feeding our dogs ‘good’ foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, as they are often laced with pesticides or herbicides which are carcinogenic. Knowing how the dog food you buy is prepared and from where it is sourced is vital.

No need to despair, however, as there is a wide range of foods that offer the vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants our dogs need for a strong immune system and to help in the prevention and treatment of cancer.

If you learn that your dog has cancer, your vet is likely to prescribe a specific dog cancer diet. Take some time to do research and think about making homemade dog food. Refrain from making any changes to your dog’s diet before speaking with your veterinarian or canine nutritionist.

Types of Cancer in Dogs

When referring to cancer, it’s challenging to know exactly what to look out for. There are so many different conditions. Sometimes, symptoms of cancer in dogs can be similar to those of other medical issues, making diagnosis more complicated.

Lumps don’t always indicate malignant tumors, but it’s safer to have them checked out by the vet anyway. There are many different forms of cancer. Some are more common than others, some are more aggressive, and some can be treated with more ease.  It’s important to know that a cancer diagnosis isn’t always terminal.

Read also: The Most Important Questions to Ask Your Vet

Becoming more educated about different forms of cancer in dogs is helpful! You’ll learn what environmental factors to avoid in order to prevent their development. One tip to remember is that even your dog skin cancer develops from exposure to sunlight if unprotected.

Chemicals like pesticides and herbicides are another factor which can lead to the development of cancer. Some medical conditions, such as cryptorchidism can even increase a dog’s risk of cancer development.

Dialogue with the Vet

There are certain symptoms, which may be signs of cancer in dogs, that warrant an immediate conversation with and visit to your vet.

Some of these symptoms may be similar in other conditions, so it’s important that you get a professional opinion. The following signs could be caused by cancer:

  • Strange lumps or swelling.
  • Sores that won’t heal or take very long to heal.
  • Unexpected weight loss.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Bleeding or irregular discharge from the mouth or other body openings.
  • Bad breath or other strange odors.
  • Trouble swallowing and eating.
  • Avoiding exercise.
  • Lame or stiff body parts.
  • Breathing, urination or defecation trouble.

Healthy dogs showing no signs of cancer, must still visit the vet at least every six months to a year. Check-ups can act as opportunities for early detection of cancer or other troublesome conditions. When detecting cancer in dogs early, the treatment potential is much larger. Remember, ask your vet for advice on environmental factors to avoid to prevent the development of cancer.