November was the National Pet Cancer Awareness Month. Let’s spare some time to care about the pets that are in love with us. The National Canine Cancer Foundation declares that every 1 in 3 dogs develop cancer in their lifetime. We should be aware of certain points to minimise the hazard of cancer that affect our pets.
What is pet cancer?
A body is made up of trillions of cells, the building block of all tissues, each designated to perform a specific task in the body. For example, bone and muscle cells give strength and structure to the body, organ cells make up the different body organs, skin cells protect the others from external environment, nerve cells create the messaging and control system of the body, etc. You can think of these cells as different employees of the company, each part of a different team designated to perform a specific function – HR, Engineering, Marketing and Sales, etc. Each of these cells are capable of reproducing or replicating themselves according to their functional requirements. This replication is called Growth. The Sales team and HR, may both grow, but their growth rates and requirements may be different specific to their function.
How each cell grows and performs, is driven by the DNA information stored in the nucleus of the cell. Every cell is expected to work as per the rules defined in the DNA. Sometimes this information undergoes an unexpected corruption or typo. This mutation causes certain cells to grow out of order. These outlaw cells create tumors and tend to grow and spread across the body. This can be imaged as Radical Groups or Unions created within the company that perform no real function except for defying rules created by the management and disrupting normal business. This is known as Cancer.
Typically, the body’s immune system would identify and fix these cancerous cells. But in the absence of a healthy lifestyle and proper nutrition, the body’s natural defenses against such outbursts are weakened and hence, cancer thrives in the body. Much like most radical groups, cancers have the tendency to exploit the body’s resources to support rapid growth of its corrupt cells and finally consume the host body completely.
The cause for high pet-cancer rates in India.
The DNA mutation in the cell can be initiated due to a lot of external factors. Exposure to radioactive or otherwise toxic chemicals, genetic defects, an overall poor nutrition and lifestyle greatly contributes to cancer in the body. Sometimes the mutation could be spontaneous and not triggered by an external factor at all. And that’s absolutely normal. What’s also normal is for the body’s immune system to catch the defect and fix it early. However, when the body’s immunity is impacted by genetic or nutritional reasons, or by administering low quality food and/or supplements – the risks are increased manifold.
For years, processed pet foods have been delivering poor quality of nutrition while passing on several toxic chemicals as preservatives and synthetic colors & flavoring agents. This, along with receding activity levels of dogs and uncontrolled & unorganized inbreeding is making the situation worse. The biggest villain here is the lifestyle. The world is becoming increasingly busy and hence, the number of lifestyle diseases among both hoomans and dawgies have increased.
Awareness about the causes and symptoms of cancer in dogs.
One, not a lot of research and education was available until recent. Two, there has been a natural spike in the frequency of lifestyle diseases for both hoomans and dawgies in the past two decades. Thanks to the processed and junk foods we’ve all been hooked on to, and the exponential growth of knowledge industry – which has resulted in more desk jobs than ever before. The constant urbanization has resulted in smaller homes and even smaller social interaction windows. Something as common as obesity can increase the risks of 11 cancers.
We don’t eat the same quality of food that we used to, 15 or 20 years ago. And neither do our dogs. We don’t walk or run the same distance that we used to, 15 or 20 years ago. And neither do our dogs.
Three, we never saw so many new breeds as commonly as we see today. While some of these breeds were created for specific task, others were mostly created for aesthetics – not genetic or evolutionary support and stability. Needless to say, the puppy mills are not really run by Experts.
The warning signs of cancer in dogs are very similar to that in hoomans. Sometimes these signs are very confusing and that is what makes cancer a little difficult to diagnose early. These are some common symptoms to watch out for in your dog:
- Abnormal swellings, bumps and lumps that persist or continue to grow
- Sores that do not heal
- Unusual and rapid weight loss
- Sudden loss of appetite
- Bleeding or discharge from any of the body-openings
- Unusually offensive odors
- Difficulty eating or swallowing
- General lethargy, hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
- Persistent lameness or stiffness
- Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecation
- Sudden behavior changes
- Pale gums due to blood loss in body
Breeds that is more prone to cancer.
Inbred dogs have a higher risk of inheriting diseases from their parent’s lineage. In an attempt to keep the bloodline pure, breeders tend to overlook the genetic vulnerabilities that inbreeding tends to bring along. Because mixed-breed dogs come from a much larger gene pool, they would be less likely to get genetic-based cancers. But that doesn’t change anything for cancers acquired due to external factors or deficiency of proper nutrients and lifestyle to support a strong immune system.
Detection in time can cure the pet.
Absolutely not. A majority of cancers can be dealt with and treated almost completely, if they’re detected in time. A variety of treatments are now available to treat cancers in pets and people, including but not limited to surgical removal, radiation and chemotherapy, etc. Even if certain cancers cannot be cured, a healthy lifestyle and diet can help your dog live a normal and painless life. There are many holistic care practices that are known to have cured dogs of cancers at various stages. But as a general rule, the earlier we can detect cancer, the better chances we stand to treat it.
How to prevent the pet from the cancer menace?
While not all cancers can be prevented, pet parents can take certain steps to help their dogs have a lower risk of developing them. A balanced a healthy diet will help the dog develop a strong immune system to fight against most cancerous formations. Steer away from synthetic and processed food items and supplements and always trust natural food. There is no better food than real food. For you, as well as for your dog.
Every tumor starts will a small swelling. Inflammation offers a favorable condition for cancer cells to grow rapidly. Encouraging food items that have natural anti-inflammatory properties will help reduce swelling and pain in parts of your dog’s body and prevent cancer formation.
Natural and controlled supply of Vitamins A, C, E, beta carotene, lycopene, and the mineral Selenium helps ward off cancer. Having your dog spayed or neutered at a young age can help prevent reproductive cancers.
Finally, there is no alternative to exercise and a healthy lifestyle.