We’ve lost 5 pets over the years to cancer, Sheba will be our third dog, unless we can hold off her cancer long enough for old age to take her from us. Therefore, it’s important to us to do everything we can now for Luke, Cricket, and any future pets to hopefully keep them cancer free.
The Dog Cancer Survival Guide* by Dr. Demian Dressler has been our main reference for fighting Sheba’s cancer, and while that’s mostly what the book is all about, it does touch briefly on ways we can possibly prevent cancer in our other dogs. This is something important to all of us, whether we’ve ever lost a dog to cancer or not.
These are the recommendations Dr. Dressler gives; not all of the things we are doing to fight Sheba’s cancer, such as her diet, are also cancer preventatives, but some can be:
- 7-8 hours of sleep in a dark room. We also discussed this as an important part of fighting Sheba’s cancer in Part 4.
- Avoiding obesity. This is SO important for pets and humans alike, and not just for cancer prevention but for prevention of many other diseases.
- Isolation and depression have been linked to cancer in humans. Giving our dogs attention, love, and activities will keep them happy. If you’re reading this blog you’re probably a pet lover, and I trust you are most likely doing those things anyway!
- Healthy exercise ties in with both things listed above. It’s good for all of us.
- Feeding brightly colored vegetables such as red or yellow peppers, broccoli, and brussels sprouts (favorites around here). Carrots are high in carbohydrates so not highly recommended (we still feed in moderation). I would add in that if your dogs don’t love vegetables that cooking them can really make a difference (and is recommended for dogs with cancer). Luke will eat any vegetable, raw or cooked, but the girls won’t eat many raw but they will eat them cooked.
- As with humans, lean towards feeding lean white meats and fish, and less toward red meats.
- Limit carbohydrates like wheat, corn, and sugar. We feed some wheat treats around here, but I don’t give the dogs anything with corn or sugar.
- Try to find dog foods that are not processed at high temperatures. I listed some examples in Part 3A.
- Avoid carcinogens. Use glass or ceramic bowls instead of plastic. Don’t expose your dogs to pesticides, lawn chemicals, car exhaust or tobacco smoke.
- Dr. Dressler does not put this on his list of preventatives, but I have read that the curcumin* we give our dogs not only might help to slow down Sheba’s cancer, but can prevent it as well. There is no stark evidence to support this, but early trials and studies have shown promise. It’s been observed that countries that use curcumin (turmeric) more have lower rates of certain types of cancer. We will continue to use curcumin for our dogs even when we’re not fighting cancer.
Getting a puppy?
- If you don’t want to deal with cancer, there are some breeds of dogs you can avoid. Personally, I can’t ever say I won’t get another golden retriever because of that and they are #1 on the list. That is a totally personal decision. You can find a list by clicking here.
- Hold off on vaccines until at least 8-10 weeks old. This might be easier said than done, since breeders, shelters, and rescues may have already done this. But if you are planning to get a puppy ahead of time you may be able to ask them to wait. Dr. Dressler recommends that boosters should then be given at ages 1, 4, and 7 years. Those are core vaccines, some other vaccines have to be given yearly, but just be sure you are only getting those vaccines if they are for diseases prevalent in your area. He also recommends no longer vaccinating after age 8, but you can also get titer tests done to be sure the immunity is still there; and then make that decision with your vet.
- Spaying/neutering. I know this is a hot topic and honestly, it’s one that I’m still not sure where I stand on. There is far too much information about this topic to include in this post. Dr. Dressler recommends not spaying females until between their third and fourth heats, and not neutering males until they are 18 – 24 months old. Our vet has always recommended spaying/neutering at 6 months old so that is always what we have done. However, it’s come to my attention that if we had waited with Luke he might not have ended up with his luxating patellas (trick knees). It’s something I struggle with, and I’m not sure what we’ll do the next time we get a puppy; but we will discuss it further with our vet, and everyone should do that.
It’s difficult to know if anything we’re doing for Sheba is actually helping, just as you can never know if your dog will end up with cancer or not. Could we have done better in the past, and possibly prevent the cancer we have seen in our pets? We can’t know that for sure either, but all we can do is try and hope for the best; as with anything in life.
This is the last post in this series, but I still have some other posts coming up on this subject, about other things that are being done to try to battle cancer. I came upon a very interesting story in my own area that I want to share.
If you would like to read the other posts in this series about the ways we are fighting Sheba’s cancer, here are the links:
- Part IV – Supplements & Immune System Boosters
- Part III (B) – Meals
- Part III(A) – Diet
- Part II – Lifestyle
- Part I – Introduction
Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian and the things we are trying here are our own choice to try, after doing my own research. You should consult your own vet when making any significant changes to your dogs’ diet or lifestyle.
*Affiliate link – we may receive a small commission if you order through this link.
Sand Spring Chesapeakes says
Some really good information here, thanks for posting.
Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says
It’s still hard for me to read anything with the c-word, but I force myself to do it for Shadow’s and Ducky’s sakes. I thank you for the compassion with which you present the information. I have found that there are few foods that both girls’ sensitive tummies can handle, so when I find too much brown rice – or any other carbohydrate – in the can, I just spoon out as much of it as I can.
I hope all you’re doing will help keep Sheba’s cancer at bay as she ages along with Cricket and my sweet Shadow! We’re keeping Callie busy watching over our girls; but she always loved having a job to do. 🙂
I don’t know how much it’s all helping, but the special meals keep her happy anyway and that’s the important thing. She still feels great, but those lumps are coming back now. 🙁 We need Callie to keep doing what she’s doing, as long as the cancer stays away from her lungs and organs it will be OK – the lumps on her side don’t bother her. I’m trying not to worry as long as she is feeling well, but it’s also hard not to analyze every little thing she does or doesn’t do. If she seems slower, I have to remember she’s over 11 years old now too!
2 Brown Dawgs says
On the spaying and neutering, I think eventually the recommendation will be hold off until full grown/mature. Age really is an artificial measure because some dogs mature faster than others. For example Thunder was not fully mature until he was 5 and Freighter will probably be the same. Other dogs are mature at 2.
I do not know why Goldens have such a high rate of cancer. It never used to be as prevalent. The only thing I can figure is that in the attempt to breed dogs with certain clearances (like hips) they have constricted their gene pool and maybe left behind animals who have better genetics when it comes to cancer. Flat coats used to have a huge incidence of cancer, but through selective breeding, I believe their incidence has gone down from where it was 20 years ago. But when you think about it, there are so many more Goldens than Flat Coats so maybe it is not all that much better after all.
I suppose the popularity of golden retrievers isn’t really to their benefit? Or are the numbers skewed because there’s so many of them? You have to wonder about that. We got Sheba and Moses from a friend. At least three other dogs from the same parents also were taken by cancer. That friend stopped breeding her dog at that point. But cancer isn’t really anything that can be screened for, is it?
Groovy Goldendoodles says
It’s interesting to learn more about preventative measures to keep your pet healthy. Thanks again for your research. These post series that you write are so beneficial and note worthy!
Thank you, Cathy!
So many things you can do to keep our sweeties healthy. I worry about the vaccines sometimes and the flea and tick medicines but I think you do the best you can. I wish there was a natural flea and tick cure.
We’ve had pretty good luck preventing fleas with natural products from Only Natural Pets and Vermont Naturals, but ticks – I don’t think anything will kill those things other than harsh chemicals!
We also spray our yard with Cedarcide which helps, when we stay in the yard anyway!
Jackie Bouchard says
Great tips. We do all those things as well. (And a few others as well.)
In addition to no pesticides, we also don’t use dryer sheets or febreeze or those floor spray cleaners or any of that stuff. After losing our last 2 dogs to cancer we really hope to keep it away from Rita – but it’s hard.
As for the spay/neuter, in CA if you rescue a pup it has to be snipped before you can adopt it, so it’s not like you have any choice in the matter in that situation. Who knows if that was a contributing factor in Abby’s cancer at such a young age??? But we had no choice..
It’s true, many times we don’t have a choice when it comes to spaying/neutering, and it sounds especially so in your state. I appreciate the fact that they’re trying to prevent overpopulation, and that’s what puts me on the fence about it. So many people taking the choice to wait might not be diligent about preventing pregnancies.
I do some of those other things as well. I only use natural cleaners, and I’ve found some all natural dryer sheets (I’ve heard tin foil works well too but I haven’t tried it yet).
To me, another tough part is avoiding the pesticides in flea and tick preventatives, as well as heartworm. Heartworm is prevalent in our area, so we do give preventatives, though I stretch out the time between dosages somewhat to at least make it a bit better.
Jackie Bouchard says
I do the same – we have terrible fleas here in So Cal (since it never gets cold enough to kill them) so I don’t want her to get infested! So I use the preventatives, but I only use it every other month in the summer and every third month in the winter.
Hmmm. Maybe I’ll try the foil thing, although the static problem doesn’t seem to be that bad here.
M. K. Clinton says
I admit to a rush of panic when I saw Westies are number 7 on the list! I will keep an extra sharp eye on Pierre. How much turmeric do you add to your dog’s diet? Mine are about to start having it added to their meals. These are all helpful tips. ♥
I know, I thought of you immediately when I saw them on the list. Beagles are on there too. 🙁
I use the pure curcumin that I get from Dr. Mercola (http://shop.mercola.com/product/curcumin-for-pets-431-oz-1-bottle,1391,534,0.htm), and follow their dosing instructions. It is my understanding that curcumin is the active cancer fighting ingredient in turmeric, and that the body does not absorb it properly from just the turmeric being ingested. The pure curcumin from Mercola is special in that it makes it more “bioavailable”. Dr. Dressler confirms this also in the book, he includes it in his cancer treatment “apocaps”.
It’s not cheap, but we buy it by the 3 pack which is cheaper and it does last a while, even with 3 dogs on it.
You can get the curcumin on amazon as well, I just added that link to the post.
Jodi Stone says
Thanks for this Jan, as you know I’m very interested in all types of healthy alternatives for my pets. I’ve heard Turmeric (which I believe has something to do with the Curcumin you mentioned) can be helpful in preventing cancer. Can I ask you what dosage of Curcumin you give the dogs and how you administer it?
I’m also waffly about the spaying/neutering. Delilah had at least two heats (we know she’d had a litter of pups, and one heat when we first got her) before she was spayed, but Sampson was done at the recommended age (6 months.) If I knew then what I know now, I probably would have waited until he was at least a year old.
I use the pure curcumin that I get from Dr. Mercola (http://shop.mercola.com/product/curcumin-for-pets-431-oz-1-bottle,1391,534,0.htm), and follow their dosing instructions. It is a powder that we sprinkle on their food, and they all seem to like it (we add a little water too so it’s not dry).
It is my understanding that curcumin is the active cancer fighting ingredient in turmeric, and that the body does not absorb it properly from just the turmeric being ingested. The pure curcumin from Mercola is special in that it makes it more “bioavailable”. Dr. Dressler confirms this also in the book, he includes it in his cancer treatment “apocaps”.
You can get it on amazon too, I am adding that link to the post.
I know that I’ll be doing a lot more research on the spay/neuter issue before we get another puppy! I can see our vet and I disagreeing on the issue (I’m leaning towards waiting longer now too), but he is always respectful of our decisions when we do. He’s kind of an “old school” vet and he has a younger woman doctor in his office now too – I’d be interested to know what she thinks as well. She was more on my page with the vaccination issue.
Jodi Stone says
I looked at the label and for dogs my dog’s size, it says 10 scoops per day. Which leaves me with the question, are they big or little scoops? I don’t want to use a container a day. 😉
I hear that! 🙂 The scoop is pretty tiny. We measured it into a teaspoon to make it easier, and I think it comes to around a teaspoon per day for the big dogs. We might have rounded it down just a little bit to be conservative too.
I think it is just as complicated as it is with humans. So much conflicting information out there. Everyone has to sort it all out and do what they feel is best for their own situation. We hope Sheba continues to feel well.
I agree, and I think just trying to stay healthy overall and use common sense is the best we can do for our pets and ourselves.
Thank you. Sheba is still feeling well, but her lumps are starting to come back. 🙁
easy rider says
many thanks for this post… it was not easy to read, because of so much bad memories what came up while reading about cancer… and I bet it wasn’t that easy for you to write about this topic. I will look for the curcumin and Easy will be happy when I replace beef with more white meat and fish, he is anyway not really a “beef-eater” :o)
No, it is not easy to write or read about cancer when we’ve lost loved ones to it.
I don’t think this crew even notices the difference if they get white or red meat….they love it all! I bet Easy feels the same. 🙂