First of all, Happy New Year! Now to continue with our discussion on cancer in our pets. Previously, I’d talked about the prevalence and causes of cancer. As this is not a scientific article, I will keep it simple, but let’s focus on cancer prevention.
• Avoid cancer prone breeds. This is not to say that mixed-breed dogs do not get cancer; they do, but why stack the odds against us?
• Spay and neuter your pets at the proper time. This will eliminate chances of testicular cancer and greatly reduce chances of breast cancer.
• Keep your cats indoors. This eliminates the chance of them fighting with a cat that is positive for feline leukemia. The transmitted virus can cause cancer in cats.
• Reduce the number of chemicals in your life. The best deodorizer for your home is the open window (unless you live next to a chicken house!) Avoid plug-ins, scented candles, chemical cleaners, dryer sheets, etc.
• Avoid smoking, especially indoors. This can increase the chances of nasal cancer in dogs and lymphoma in cats.
• We know that in humans, processed meat increases the chances of cancer. Avoid giving your pets processed meat.
• We think it’s best if you can cook for your pet, but that may not be practical for most people. An easier idea would be to add cancer-preventing veggies and fruits like steamed or sautéed broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and fresh blueberries and apples to existing dog food. We make that in a slow cooker and freeze away in yogurt containers. If you’d like more guidelines, email me. Choosing the “best” off-the-shelf pet food is a challenging task to say the least! We intend to tackle that in a future issue.
• If you are one of the rare and brave few who cooks for your pet, here comes a controversial suggestion! Avoid animal products as much as possible! In our case, we cook organic vegetarian meals for our dogs. We have to use meat for our cats, though, as they are obligate carnivores. Consult with your veterinarian on how to make a balanced meal.
• This last point may be one of the most important. Keep your pet skinny. Obesity is second only to smoking as the biggest preventable cause of cancer in the U.S. Clients are always asking how much their dog should weigh. It’s not just the pounds, it’s the shape of the pounds. We should be able to see their ribs when they are turning and stretching their sides. We should not be able to see their ribs when they are standing straight; that is too skinny.
Before we part, one more thing. Two years ago, I started writing this column with the hope of bettering the lives of dogs and cats around us. My great lamentation is that people who read my articles probably do not need to read them and people who need to read my articles probably do not read them.
If you are reading this article, you probably do not have an unprotected animal outside in the cold. Please keep an eye out for dogs and cats who are left outside without proper protection in this cold. Spread the word. If you can afford to, please help out your neighbor with a shelter for their dog!