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Cancer is perhaps one of the most feared of canine diseases. If you look at the figures, you will understand why - about one in four dogs will develop cancer at some point in their lives, and over half of the dogs aged over 10 years old will die of cancer.
Unfortunately, there is not a magical "checklist" which, if we do everything on the list, we can prevent our dogs from getting cancer.
However, there are a lot of things that we, as dog parents, can do to help minimize the chance of our dogs developing cancer.
Be proactive! Here are the things that you can RIGHT NOW to help prevent cancer development in your dogs.
One of the most important things that we can do for our dogs to minimize their chances of getting cancer is to provide them with a natural, high-quality diet that is high in protein, and low in carbohydrates.
If you are feeding your dog a low-grade grain-based commercial dog food, you need to seriously consider changing the food. There are several reasons why such food poses a risk on your dog's health:
If a dog is starting to develop cancer and if his diet is a grain-based diet, it means that his food is feeding the cancer and promoting cancer growth.
The best diet for our dogs is a well-balanced home made dog diet. Some holistic practitioners suggest that a raw diet is the best for dog cancer prevention.
But if you are not comfortable with handling raw meat and bones, a home cooked diet is fine, provided that the foods are not cooked in a high temperature (make sure that the cooking temperature is below 212°F or 100°C).
Alternatively, you can also get high-quality freeze-dried or dehydrated foods.
To prevent canine cancer, in addition to a healthy diet, dietary supplements are also essential.
In particular, antioxidant supplements are important because they help protect the dog's body against damage by free radicals. In particular:
Recommended dosage is 1 teaspoon of coconut oil per 10 pounds of body weight per day.
Vitamin A along with Omega-3 rich oils can be found in cod liver oil which is a good alternative to synthetic vitamin A.
Selenium itself is a powerful antioxidant and can prevent cancer. It also helps the body absorb vitamin E.
Recommended dosage is 50 IU vitamin E with 5-10 mcg selenium for small dogs; 100-200 IU vitamin E with 20-25 mcg selenium for medium dogs, and 400 IU vitamin E with 50 mcg selenium for large dogs, once daily.
Other powerful antioxidants with cancer prevention properties include alpha lipoic acid and grapefruit seed extract.
There has been a lot of research on using herbs to prevent cancer. Herbs that have been found to have anti-cancer properties include:
Recent research has found that these mushrooms can enhance the immune system, due to their high levels of polysaccharides and their effect on white blood cells.
In addition, these mushrooms have been found to possess anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, immune-stimulating, and antioxidant properties.
Natural mushroom supplements such as Only Natural Pet ShroomImmune (Affiliate link) can be given to dogs to get the maximum anti-cancerous properties of these mushrooms.
It is also an antioxidant and astringent and has been shown to be an effective herb for cancer (especially for some kind of stomach and skin cancers).
Note: If you use green tea to prevent canine cancer, be sure to use decaffeinated tea since caffeine is harmful to dogs.
We should make the living environments of our pets as carcinogen-free as possible. For example, as much as possible, we should not expose our dogs to:
Besides foods, we also have to pay attention to the water. It has been found that tap water in many areas in the USA contains a host of residue chemicals, hormones, and other contaminants that can cause cancer (both in humans and dogs).
Consider installing a water filter or using uncontaminated, unfluoridated bottled water.
There is more and more concrete evidence linking vaccinations to canine cancer. Routine vaccinations top the list of things that disrupt the immune system.
Many holistic vets now suggest vaccinating our dogs on an "as-needed" basis, rather than giving them every possible vaccine every year.
Find a vet who is willing to give your dog blood titer tests (which can tell if your dog's antibody levels for a particular infectious disease, e.g. distemper, remain high enough to resist infection) and re-vaccinate only if the titer tests show low antibody levels.
Ask the vet to use single vaccines instead of combination vaccines.
Certain types of canine cancer, such as breast, ovarian, and testicular cancer, can be prevented by early spaying or neutering.
On the other hand, early spaying increases the risk of developing hemangiosarcomas in female dogs. Also, dogs who are spayed/neutered before one year of age have a higher chance of developing osteosarcoma compared to intact dogs.
Try to find out if your dog's breed has inherited cancer risks and, if so, for which type of cancer. This can help you make more informed decisions as to whether you should sterilize your dog.
Since the lymph system is one of the most important defense mechanisms in the body, maintaining a healthy, well-circulated lymph system is essential in canine cancer prevention.
How can we keep our dog's lymph system healthy and well-circulated?
One simple thing we can do is to give our dog regular exercise. Another way to stimulate lymph circulation is to brush your dog vigorously every day from the direction of his feet up to his heart.
Regular exercise also prevents obesity in dogs - a lean dog is healthier and is more ready to fight infections and other diseases like cancer than a fat dog.
You may wonder how sleep can help minimize canine cancer.
It has been found that unnatural sleep/wake cycles in humans are a cause of cancer because they interrupt melatonin production.
Melatonin is a powerful cancer-fighting hormone that boosts the immune system, and to produce adequate amount of melatonin, at least nine hours of sleep in total darkness is required. (Total darkness increases production of melatonin.)
By extension, dogs should also get at least nine hours of uninterrupted sleep in total darkness so that they can maintain high levels of melatonin in their bodies.
Last but not least, the emotional wellbeing of your dog is important - try to provide an environment for your dog that is as stress-free as possible.