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Cancer is a difficult enough diagnosis for human beings. But when it comes to our beloved pets, it can be heartbreaking for us.
Almost half of dogs over the age of 10 will develop cancer, and the most common form is lymphoma.
Lymphoma in dogs is similar in many ways to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in humans — including the concerns linking exposure to the herbicide glyphosate to the development of cancer.
Here’s what you need to know to protect your pet…
Canine lymphoma could be linked to environmental toxins
Lymphoma accounts for 15 to 20 percent of new cancer diagnoses in dogs and tends to be most common in middle-aged and older dogs. Several breeds are predisposed to lymphoma, suggesting there may be a genetic component.
But as Dr. Barbara Hodges, program director of advocacy and outreach for the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association has stated, “Cancer is increasingly common in dogs and disturbingly, canine cancers are occurring at younger ages. A dog who is not a member of a breed linked to a particular cancer is not immune to that cancer — or any other cancer, for that matter.”
One of those breeds, the golden retriever, is the subject of an ongoing study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Morris Animal Foundation. This study is examining the link between toxins in the environment and the development of canine lymphoma.
Their goals? Early detection and prevention.
The University of Wisconsin study will analyze blood and urine samples from 60 participants in the Morris Animal Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study that were diagnosed with lymphoma. These dogs will be compared with a control group of 60 healthy dogs from the same study matched by age and sex.
“These data allow us to look at the chemical exposures not only at the time of diagnosis, but a year prior to diagnosis to see whether there is early DNA damage that can be seen in the blood in association with chemical exposures,” says study lead Dr. Lauren Trepanier, professor of internal medicine and assistant dean for clinical and translational research. “This might help us screen high-risk animals or understand the impacts the chemical exposures have on dogs.”
According to Trepanier, available data already suggests that people should avoid using herbicides on their lawns. Scottish terriers exposed to glyphosate-treated lawns were found to have a 7-times higher risk for cancer in a 2013 study.
Trepanier says they hope this new study clarifies some lymphoma risk factors and helps owners minimize their dogs’ exposure to cancer-causing chemicals.
“Through the identification of potential modifiable risk factors for lymphoma in dogs, we hope to make substantial progress in preventing and treating this devastating disease,” she says.
Keeping your dog toxin-free
It’s a good start to keep your dog away from glyphosate-containing weedkillers — if not all of them. Instead of using commercial herbicides, look for brands with all-natural ingredients. You can even make your own using a recipe like this one.
It can be tough to protect your dog from airborne environmental toxins, especially if you live in an area near factories or heavy traffic. If that’s the case, you may want to feed your dog small amounts of broccoli on occasion. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts contain a chemical that can actually remove air pollutants like benzene and acrolein from the body.
Just be careful not to feed your dog too much of the vegetable. Broccoli contains substances called isothiocyanates that can cause mild to potentially severe gastric irritation in some dogs. As long as you keep your dog’s daily broccoli consumption to less than 10 percent of their food intake, they should be fine.
As for the rest of your dog’s diet, avoid dog foods high in carbohydrates. The glucose from carbohydrates promotes the multiplication of cancer cells. For these reasons, a grain-free dog food, high in protein, and balanced amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is a good option.
And just as you would with children, avoid exposing pets to cigarette smoke and household chemicals.
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Dogs, lawn care and cancer—Humane Society.org
Cancer in Pets — American Veterinary Medical Association
Lymphoma in Dogs — VCA Animal Hospitals
How to Make a Homemade Weed Killer — The Native Plant Herald
Can Dogs Eat Broccoli? — American Kennel Club