Canine Cancer Lessons: 11 Tools For Prevention

Dog looking at box with Canine Cancer cells in the background

When I was in veterinary school, cancer, in my experience, presented a lot of closed doors. I was in a position where I was supposed to be offering solutions to people for their sick pets, but none of the options were very good.

As someone who wanted to do something to help these animals, this simply wasn’t tolerable for me. I didn’t want to be hopeless. I didn’t like only offering short-term solutions.

So I started thinking about how could I offer real hope. I started doing research. I wrote a book that was well received. And most importantly, I believe, I started trying to change the ways I was looking, and others were looking, at the world. I moved from an educational mindset to a desire to be open to other things available that have merit.

This led to a really important shift.

And now, that’s how I look at canine cancer.

Facts About Canine Cancer

Here are a few, indisputable facts about this dreaded disease.

1. Cancer Isn’t New

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs depict the removal of tumors.

“Fossilized bones and mummified tissues … show that malignant transformations have been afflicting human and animal populations for eons … pathogen-induced cancers were probably generally present in ancient historic and prehistoric human populations.” ~ International Journal of Paleopathology

2. Cancer Isn’t One Event

The way that cancer occurs is through a series of many different insults and microscopic injuries to the body. Over time, cancer develops. These events may occur ancestrally. That’s the basis for the genetic aspect of the disease.

3. Cancer Cells Occur In An Environment

Cancer doesn’t just involve the cancer cells. It involves the surrounding environments. This is good, because we can impact the cancer by impacting the environment.

“Many studies have shown that the microenvironment is capable of normalizing tumor cells.” ~ Nature Magazine

How Bad Is Canine Cancer?

  • 23% of all dogs die of cancer
  • 45% of dogs over 10 die of cancer
  • For some breeds the incidence is as high as 65%

Dogs, in many ways, mirror what’s happening with humans. And dogs are used these days as models for human cancers. The two are extremely similar.

“Dogs live in our environment and eat similar food and are thus exposed to similar risk factors, so the etiology and pathogenesis of canine tumors is likely to be similar to that of human tumors.” ~ Dr Jane Dobson, Cambridge Veterinary School

So what do we do to deal with this problem?

If we look at medical systems, we’ve got:

  • Conventional (allopathic) – based on or in accordance with what is generally done or believed. What vets learn in school.
  • Alternative – one or more things available as another possibility.

One of the problems, with both conventional and alternative medicine, is an adherence to certain preexisting principles. This type of thinking leads to preconceived ideas – meaning an idea is formed before you have the evidence for its truth or usefulness.

If we’re in the realm of solving an issue like canine cancer, it can be hard if you subscribe to just conventional or alternative medicine. We try to use old solutions for existing problems, but, by definition, those existing problems have not been solved.

We need to find something better.

Avoiding Canine Cancer: The Basic Principles

As humans, we tend to react to things as they’re happening.

But we need to remember that cancer takes time to develop. We need to start looking at it as a long-term process. That’s why early action, even if cancer isn’t staring us in the face, is the way to reduce the risk of the disease.

Here are some basic principles to help with long-term prevention. These may seem like basic ideas, but we have almost become desensitized. We need to be motivated to pay attention to them.

1. National Priority Sites

These are defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as “Sites of national priority among the known releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants throughout the United States and its territories.”

These sites are real hotspots. When we look at exposure that’s ongoing, chronic, consistent and capable of causing cancer in a real and measurable way, these areas are sources of that. And there are 1342 of them in the United States. Many of them are located in residential areas. Most of them were/are manufacturing and storage sites: chemical, military, metal, pesticide, technology, landfills, etc.

You can find where these sites are right here.

Solutions:

  • If you’re able to, relocate
  • Try to raise awareness about these sites and their impacts
  • Support clean-up efforts

2. Toxic Inhalants

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons are some of the most potent carcinogens known. Car exhaust is full of these.

“Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are ubiquitous environmental pollutants with high carcinogenic potencies.” ~ Carcinogenesis

Secondhand smoke is also a problem. And while dogs don’t get lung cancer, they can get nasal tumors, especially those with long snouts.

Solutions:

  • Avoidance
  • Filter the air and change the filters regularly in your filtration units

3. Water

We’re constantly exposed to water. And we need to be thinking about the impact it has on our health.  

“Any and all chemicals generated by human activity can and will find their way into water supplies … Source-water contaminants of concern include arsenic, asbestos, radon, agricultural chemicals, and hazardous waste. Of these, the strongest evidence for a cancer risk involves arsenic, which is linked to cancers of the liver, lung, bladder, and kidney. The use of chlorine for water treatment to reduce the risk of infectious disease may account for a substantial portion of the cancer risk associated with drinking water.” ~ Environmental Health Perspectives

Water also contains pharmaceuticals. People dump their leftover prescriptions in the toilet. They also pass their bodily waste into the sewer systems. The body doesn’t process them all and those leftovers are passed through waste and urine. This eventually makes its way back into the drinking water system.

Water also contains:

  • Disinfectant by-products
  • Lead
  • Asbestos
  • Pesticides
  • Herbicides

This is not being talked about.

So what’s the water solution? It’s not fancy or complex. It’s simple. Filter the water.

A study was done by the International Association on Water Pollution Research. It found “The occurrence of fifty-five pharmaceuticals, hormones and metabolites in raw waters used for drinking water production and their removal through a drinking water treatment were studied… complete treatment accounted for the complete removal of all the compounds detected in raw waters except for five of them… the removals of these pharmaceuticals were higher than 95%.”

Charcoal is what the study used. Old school, yes. But it works.

  • Granular active charcoal filters are available and at a reasonable price. And they’re pretty effective.
  • Reverse osmosis filters are not as effective, but still better than doing nothing.
  • Sand filters are also better than nothing, but they don’t remove arsenic.

You can find out more at The Public Health Safety Organization. They provide everything you need to know about water filtration. 

4. Spaying and Neutering

Here I’m not talking about vasectomy and tubal ligation. I’m talking about where the endocrine system is deranged due to the removal of the testes or ovaries. In general, this is a population control measure. And that seems to be the party line.

But the treatment of population is totally different from the treatment of an individual animal. Over-population means you have to do something to diminish the population. Philosophically, spaying and neutering isn’t exactly in the best interests of the individual animal.

Having said that, there are some health benefits, that’s absolutely true. However, that’s not the majority situation. The negatives, in my opinion, far outweigh the positives.

We get up to:

These are big differences.

If we limit the discussion to cancer and spaying and neutering, if you spay your female dog before her first heat, before 6 months of age, you practically abolish the risk of breast cancer (0.8%).

But I don’t believe that’s because of the spay. I believe it’s because of estrogen disruption.

What’s the spay and neuter solution? If you decide to do it, wait until 12-18 months of age.

5. Food Dyes

Foods dyes are made from petroleum products. Like oil paint.

“Red 3 causes cancer in animals, and there is evidence that several other dyes also are carcinogenic… All of the nine currently US-approved dyes raise health concerns of varying degrees.” ~ International Journal of Occupational Environmental Health

The biggest offenders: reds and yellows.

And this is what they look like:

Dog chew toy and snacks made with dyes

They’re not cherry red or lemon yellow. The colors are washed out because they’re mixed in the meal. Foods that are naturally occurring rarely have bright colors.

What’s the solution? It’s pretty basic. Don’t give your dog anything with dyes.

The International Journal of Occupational Environmental Health recommends exactly that: “All of the currently used dyes should be removed from the food supply and replaced, if at all, by safer colorings.”

6. Fats And Oils

Fats in food impact inflammation. Chronic inflammation promotes cancer. Omega-6 fatty acids increase inflammation.

Chronic inflammation is a molecular event. It’s small, but it’s widespread. It:

  • Increases mutations
  • Increases new blood vessels (cancer cells like to scoot into those blood vessels and travel around the body)
  • Increases cancer stimulating cytokines
  • Suppresses anti-cancer immunity
  • Suppresses cancer cell death
  • Increases tissue permeability

“Tumor enhancement by the omega-6 fatty acid source occurs during the post-initiation, or promotion, stage.” ~ Photochemistry Photobiology

How do we get all those omega-6s in our diet (dogs and humans)?

  • Modern agriculture
  • Animals that eat food from the products of modern agriculture
  • Then we (and our dogs) eat that meat

Corn, soy, peanut, safflower oil, sunflower oil, beef and chicken fat, vegetable oil – these are all sources of a lot of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids oppose the omega-6 cancer effects. They neutralize them.

40000 years ago, when dogs were first domesticated, the ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in the diet were pretty close, about 1:1. That’s great, it means no inflammation.

Now, modern western human diets have up to 20 times more omega-6s than 3s.

What’s the solution? Take in fewer omega-6 fatty acids and more omega-3s. Some of the ones I really like are:

  • Algae
  • Chia seeds
  • Oysters
  • Sardines, Manhaden
  • Krill oil
  • Omega-3 rich vegetables: radishes, leafy greens, alfalfa sprouts, zucchini, cauliflower, spinach, arugula
  • Grass-fed, local meats

7. Apoptosis: Normal Cell Death

A cell needs to be born, develop, grow oil and die. That’s the normal cell cycle. When a cell is damaged, infected, etc, it’s supposed to commit suicide, to go off and get recycled. This is called apoptosis.

Cancer cells lack apoptosis. So they will never go off and die if left to their own accord. That’s one of the hallmarks of cancer. 

Solution: Apoptogens – turn on apoptosis.

Chemotherapy ends up killing healthy cells along with the cancerous ones. Apoptogens target the cancer cells specifically, leaving the healthy cells alone to follow the normal process.

Dietary apoptogens found in naturally occurring food sources:

  • Turmeric
  • Parsley
  • Milk thistle
  • Mushrooms (shiitake, maiitake, turkey tail, cordyceps)
  • Rosemary
  • Ginger

8. Carbohydrates

Otto Warburg won the Nobel Prize in the 1930s. He discovered that every single cancer cell out there has a glycolytic phenotype. That means cancer cells have a high preference for sugars as fuel. Cancer cells eat sugar.

Why this isn’t talked about in conventional medicine I have no idea. It’s so well documented and proven, it’s crazy.

“Over the last years, evidence has accumulated suggesting that by systematically reducing the amount of dietary carbohydrates (CHOs) one could suppress, or at least delay, the emergence of cancer, and that proliferation of already existing tumor cells could be slowed down.” ~ Nutrition and Metabolism

And another problem? Carbohydrate production = glyphosate. That’s the active ingredient in Roundup. That, in my opinion, is the biggest deal with the GMO industry right now and the biggest immediate health concern right now.

“Glyphosate is now authoritatively classified as a probable human carcinogen… Regulatory estimates of tolerable daily intakes for glyphosate in the United States and European Union are based on outdated science.” ~ Environmental Health

That means the limits on our intake are way too high as far as what’s healthy. And that’s recognized.

And it isn’t just in the vegetables, fruits, grains, etc. It’s in the seeds.

Glyphosate-based herbicides:

  • chelate minerals
  • are known endocrine disruptors
  • contribute to leaky gut

Solutions:

  • Avoid grains and carbs in general
  • Feed organic, grass-fed meats
  • Eat wild caught fish

Wash your produce well, whether with water (does an ok job), soap and water (does a better job) or ozone water (does a really good job).

9. Preservatives

Those packaged foods on the shelf stay there for months, so preservatives keep them from rotting.

At low levels, these preservatives are antioxidants (they prevent oxidation).

But, at high levels, over time, they have the reverse effect. They become carcinogenic pro-oxidants.

  • Ethoxyquin – used in fish food (so it’s in fish), fish meal. It’s banned in the EU, but not in the US.
    • In human food, the limit is <5ppm. You still find it in a lot of spices.
    • In dog food, the limit is <75ppm – that’s a huge difference.
    • High level exposure can lead to urinary tract tumors.
  • BHA and BHT – butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT).
    • The Journal of Food Examination and Research says “BHA induces in animals tumors of the forestomach, which are dose-dependent, whereas BHT induces liver tumors in long-term experiments.”
    • These are used all the time.
  • Sodium Nitrate and Sodium Nitrite – “Pink Salt”
    • Think cold cuts, hot dogs, those “pink” meats.
    • All by themselves, these are not really a big deal. The problem is the synergy. They react with protein. When they react with protein they make very potent carcinogens:
      • N-nitroso compounds
      • N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA)

“NDMA is a potent carcinogen, capable of inducing malignant tumors in carious animal species in a variety of tissues, including liver, lung, and stomach.” ~ Nutrients

Solution:

  • Fewer packages
  • Whole, fresh foods
  • If it isn’t fresh, choose fresh frozen
  • Nontoxic preservatives (Vitamin E)

10. Endocrine Disruptors

“An endocrine disruptor is an exogenous substance or mixture that alters function(s) of the endocrine system and consequently causes adverse health effects in an intact organism, or its progeny, or (sub)populations.” ~ European Commission

The one on the left is estrogen. The one on the right is an endocrine disrupting pesticide.

Molecular structure of estrogen vs an endocrine disrupting pesticide - cancer in dogs

The reason endocrine disruptors are capable of mimicking estrogen (or other hormones) in the body is that they look similar to the body.

Effects at tiny levels go away as the dose increases. At smaller doses though, over a long-period of time, toxicity occurs.

“There are 109 published studies as of July 2005 that report significant effects of low doses of BPA in experimental animals… 40 studies report effects below the current reference dose of 50 microg/kg/day that is still assumed to be safe by the US-FDA and US-EPA in complete disregard of the published findings.” ~ Environmental Research

Some common endocrine disruptors include:

  • Pesticides (DDT) soy, pharmaceutical metabolites, heavy metals
  • Bisphenol-A (BPA): water bottles, cans, estrogenic at low levels

“Two canned dog foods tested, including one thought to be BPA-free, contained BPA. Two-week feeding of either canned dog food brand increased BPA levels in dogs.” ~ The Science of the Total Environment

What’s the solution?

  • No more plastic bowls (use ceramic, stainless steel, glass)
  • Stay away from BPA replacements
  • Feed/eat more whole foods (less packaging)
  • Minimize phytoestrogens (soy)

There’s a new product coming out called Bisguaiacol F that’s meant to replace plastic but it doesn’t have any endocrine disruptors!

11. Heat

Heat is a major issue when it comes to canine cancer (and cancer in general). The temperatures involved when kibble is made are between 212-392 degrees.

A very potent carcinogen, Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs), is formed when protein hits 302 degrees, which it does when it’s in kibble.

“HCAs are some of the most potent mutagens… and have been clearly shown to induce tumors in experimental animal models.” ~ Nutrition and Cancer

Glycotoxins, also known as Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs), are another issue. These molecules stick the outside of cells in a way that’s proportional to how old the body is. Older bodies have lots of these glycotoxins attached to the outside of cells, assuming the person eats carbohydrates. Young bodies don’t. It’s connected to time.

When carbohydrates react with other molecules, proteins and fats mostly, under high temperatures like cooking, or like internal combustion – remember we’re like engines too – we metabolize things through oxidation – that’s a heat generating reaction. And it happens in dogs too.

Carbohydrates that get heated up turn into glycotoxins.

What’s the high temperature food solution?

  • Start paying attention to cooking temperatures. Avoid kibble. If you’re cooking, keep temperatures under 212 degrees. Avoid excessive char if you can.
  • Neutralize Dietary Carcinogens. You’ve probably heard of brassica, the cruciferous vegetables that are cancer neutralizing? They do all kinds of great things. They bind to the carcinogenic particles and have anti-cancer properties within them. This includes:
    • Cabbage
    • Broccoli
    • Brussel Sprouts
    • Tops of celery
    • Parsley
    • Shiitake
    • Rosemary
    • Basil
  • Adsorbents – to block absorption. These sponge up the carcinogens inside the stomach and the intestines:
    • Natural fiber from vegetables – good for detox as well
    • Modified citrus pectin
    • Clay (zeolite, bentonite) – a couple times a month max, not too regularly
    • Humic acid
    • Chlorella, spirulina

You also need to protect the gut microbiome. The gut talks to the brain. But if there’s dysbiosis (an imbalance in the gut bacteria), the waste from the bad bacteria can lead to:

  • epithelium toxicity
  • carcinogenic metabolites
  • chronic inflammation

The solution? Probiotics.

Some great sources of probiotics include:

  • Raw green tripe
  • Diluted sauerkraut
  • Raw fermented dairy
  • Other fermented veggies

Feed the healthy bacteria or they’ll disappear in a matter of days.

Other tips:

  • Melatonin is a major anti-cancer hormone. It also contributes to cell death and builds immunity. Make sure your dog is getting enough sleep. Turn the lights out at night.
  • Reduce electromagnetic field radiation (EMFs).

Spread The Word

I think that one of the most important aspects in the progression of health is communication. What’s going on, in my opinion, is that free communication is getting impeded. It’s getting impeded by electronic surveillance, through Facebook swarming, through political issues that are going on.

And I think that, as time goes on, if we’re not really careful, we’re going to be self-censoring in a very dramatic way. If there’s money behind it, that means that the self-censoring is going to be connected with things like health and wellness and new solutions. And I think this is something to be conscious of as a future trend.

Canine cancer is an epidemic, one that, together, we can work to stop. Look at it as a long-term thing, not something that starts with a diagnosis. That’s the only way to protect your dog.

This was part of Dr Dressler’s presentation at the 2018 Raw And Natural Dog Summit.

RELATED: Why you shouldn’t volunteer your dog for cancer vaccine research …

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