Cancer is a terrible word to hear, no matter who has the disease. Unfortunately, cancer isn’t just reserved for your friends and family – your dog can experience the same illness as humans. We set out to explore the myths and truths about canine cancer, along with breeds more prone to developing the disease and prevention methods.
Canine cancer myths
There are a lot of myths circulating about what causes cancer, not just in dogs but for humans, too. For example, once people thought wearing a bra would cause cancer in women. Since proven wrong, women now can pick a bra based on how it looks and makes them feel, rather than being concerned about whether it causes cancer.
Similarly, here are a few canine cancer myths:
- Microchipping causes cancer: There is no conclusive data to suggest this, and hardly any data at all to give this credence.
- Dogs can’t get skin cancer: Even though dogs have fur, they still can (and do) get skin cancer).
- Spay and neutering cause cancer: There is still a lot of debate about this, but no proof — spaying and neutering help to prevent some types of cancer, such as mammary and prostate.
Canine cancer facts
With some of the myths set aside, let’s look at the facts we do know about cancer in our little furry friends.
- Cancer is the leading cause of death for dogs and causes 47% of dog deaths.
- The percentages go even higher as a dog’s age and reach double digits.
- Dogs can get skin cancer, although very often it is benign. The risk increases substantially as the dog gets older.
- The most common type of cancer in dogs is lymphoma.
- Cancer is a lot more common in dogs than in cats.
Cancer is a real concern for dogs as they age, and it’s another reason owners need to help their dogs stay active and maintain a healthy weight.
Affected dog breeds
If you’ve heard before that certain dog breeds are more prone to canine cancer, then you are correct. Certain dogs are significantly more likely to develop cancer than others, with the following breeds at the top of the list:
- Bernese mountain dog
- Golden retriever
- Labrador retriever
- Cocker spaniel
- Scottish terrier
- Chow Chow
A Colorado State University study is working to identify the nutritional, environmental, lifestyle, and genetic risk factors for cancer in Golden Retrievers. CSU, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of California-Davis are also recruiting healthy, middle-aged dogs for a study to develop a cancer vaccine.
Environmental factors can play a role in causing cancer for any breed. For example, second- and third-hand smoke is a known factor for causing canine disease.
There are a variety of treatment options available for dogs that develop cancer. Many forms can be treated successfully and with cancer going into remission.
One of the most significant factors is early detection, which can provide more treatment options.
There are many things you can do to help prevent cancer in your dog. Good exercise, healthy lifestyle, and a well-planned diet are among ways to help prevent the disease.
Also, dogs don’t experience the same pain and suffering from the treatment that humans do. Many dogs don’t even experience any pain or side effects from chemo or radiation.
With dogs and humans being so similar genetically, much of the same research in human cancer prevention and treatment applies to dogs. This is encouraging and provides promise to future cancer prevention for dogs.
Allena Rissa is the founder and editor of The Better Fit.