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Why Dogs Don’t Live Longer Than People…

dog silhouetteHere is the explanation of a six-year-old boy…

He says, “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life, like loving everybody all the time and being nice… Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.

Live simply, Love Generously, Care Deeply, and Speak Kindly…

What is Cancer?

Dog cancer, like human cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells on or within the body. Although there are many types of cancer, they still start because of out-of-control growth of abnormal cells. Normal body cells grow, divide and die in an orderly fashion. During the early years of a dogs life, normal cells divide rapidly until the dog becomes and adult. After that, cells in most parts of the body divide only to replace worn out or dying cells and to repair injuries. Because cancer cells continue to grow and divide, they are different from normal cells. Instead of dying, they outlive normal cells and continue to form new abnormal cells.

Cancer cells develop because of damaged DNA. This substance is in every cell and directs all activities. Most of the time when DNA becomes damaged the body is able to repair it. In cancer cells, the damaged DNA is not repaired. Dogs can inherit damaged DNA, which accounts for inherited cancers. More often, though, a dog’s DNA becomes damaged by exposure to something in the environment, like smoke, pesticides, or other carcinogens.

Cancerous tumors can spread to other parts of the body where they begin to grow and replace normal tissue. This process is called metastasis. For example, breast cancer that spreads to the liver is still called breast cancer, not liver cancer. Regardless of where a cancer may spread, however, it is always named for the place it began.

Not all tumors are cancerous. Benign (non cancerous) tumors do not spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body and, with very rare exceptions, are not life threatening.

Different types of cancer and behave very differently. For example, bone cancer and breast cancer are very different diseases. They grow at different rates and respond to different treatments. That is why dogs with cancer need treatment that is aimed at their particular kind of cancer.

Cancer rates increase in dogs with age. It is the leading cause of death in dogs over 10 years.


If cancer is suspected in your dog, a veterinarian may order x-rays, blood tests, ultrasounds. A biopsy (the removal of a piece of tissue) is frequently performed for confirmation that cancer exists and to determine the level of severity from benign to aggressively malignant (called grading).


We do not know how dogs get cancer most of the time. There are many types of cancer and many causes of cancer (chemicals in our environment, sun exposure, assorted viruses and infection). There are important genetic factors as well. Feeding your dog a healthy diet and keeping them away from know carcinogens will help. Spaying or neutering you dog will also reduce their risk fro developing certain cancers.


Each diagnosis of cancer requires individual care and treatment planning. Conventional treatment may include a combination of treatment therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, cryosurgery (freezing), hyperthermia (heating), or immunotherapy.

Complementary and alternative veterinary medicine (CAVM) therapies include acupuncture, behavior modification, homeopathy, herbal medicine, mega-nutrient augmentation therapy, nutritional therapy and chiropractic therapy.

Once diagnosed, your veterinarian will discuss the best treatment option(s) for your dog. In some instances, your veterinarian may refer you to a board certified oncologist (cancer specialist) depending upon the recommended course of treatment. It never hurts to get a second opinion and to research clinical trials for which your dog may be eligible.


Emma in a cornfield

Treatment success depends upon the type and extent of the cancer, as well as the aggressiveness of the therapy. Some cancers can be cured and almost all patients can be helped to some degree.

Another critical point is to understand exactly what is meant when data on efficacy of treatment is presented. Useful terms include:

Median – this is used in the context of survival, a median survival of three months means 50% of the animals are alive at three months, but 50% have died. It does not give you any information of the range of survival of individuals from within the group. For example; individual animals may have survived for only a day to several years. A median survival is very useful to allow comparison between different types of treatment.

Survival means just that how long an animal stayed alive, usually from time of diagnosis, but it could also mean from time of treatment, or from time the owner first noticed signs of a problem. It does not give you any information on what the animal’s quality of life was during that time.

Progression free survival is the time the animal survived without progression of clinical signs. This gives you a better idea of quality of life.

Common Canine Cancers

Cancer is most common in older dogs, but can strike at nearly any age, any breed or lifestyle. Some of the most common cancers are:


Melanoma is a common type of cancer in dogs. In fact, it is the most common malignant tumor of the dogs mouth. It also is seen on the skin and in the nail bed and footpad and is the most common neoplasm’s of the canine eye. Skin tumors are among the most common tumors found in dogs and many are benign. However, canine melanoma found in other sites is a highly aggressive cancer that frequently spreads (metastasizes) throughout the body.


Lymphoma is the third most common cancer diagnosed in dogs. It is a cancer of lymphocytes (a type of blood cell) and lymphoid tissues. Lymphoid tissue is normally present in many places in the body, including lymph nodes, spleen, liver, gastrointestinal tract and bone marrow.

Osteosarcoma (bone cancer)

Most primary bone tumors in dogs are malignant and approximately 85% are osteosarcomas. Osteosarcomas are highly aggressive tumors characterized by local invasion and distant metastasis.


Hemangiosarcoma is a highly malignant cancer that preys on blood vessels. It can spread rapidly, causing tumors almost anywhere in the body, and is often found in the heart or spleen. Many times it is in the advanced stage before it is diagnosed, making it virtually a silent killer.

Mast Cell Tumors

Of all the malignant cancers in dogs, mast cell tumors are most common.

Bladder Cancer

Most bladder cancer tumors are malignant and can spread to the bones, lungs and lymph nodes. This cancer is more common in dogs than in cats.

Mammary Cancer (Breast Cancer)

Breast cancer is responsible for one-half of all tumors in female dogs. Dogs that are not spayed before their first or second heat period are more likely to develop tumors – half of them are malignant. These cancers can be prevented by timely spaying.

What Causes Pet Cancer?


Due to improper breeding practices certain breeds of dogs are genetically prone to canine cancer including:

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Rottweilers
  • Bernese Mountain dogs
  • Boxers

When choosing a dog or cat, question the breeder as to the incidence of canine or feline cancer in the line. And always avoid animals that have been “mass” bred in puppy and kitten farms or mills.


It has been clinically proven that over-vaccinations can actually weaken your pet’s immune system, setting the stage for pet cancer.

While initial puppy and kitten vaccinations are required and necessary, try hard to avoid automatically vaccinating every year. Speak with your veterinarian about spreading out vaccinations and inoculate only those for diseases that are prevalent in your geographical area.

Environmental And Food Toxins

Emma with Flag

Do a toxic screening of your household and environment. Exposure to chemicals in the environment and even small daily doges of chemical additives and preservatives in their food can build up and be carcinogen. That’s why it is important to take a serious look at the products you have around in your house, get rid of toxic ones, and substitute safer products.

A variety of reports from the EPA, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission confirm the hazards of environmental and household toxins including lawn fertilizers, detergents, and cleaners. These all have warning labels relative to children and pets, and many veterinarians see a link between environmental toxins and pet cancer.

Know The 10 Early Warning Signs

Canine Cancer affects 1 out of every 3 dogs.

  1. Abnormal Swelling That Persist or Continues To Grow
  2. Sores That Do Not Heal
  3. Weight Loss
  4. Loss of Appetite
  5. Bleeding/Discharge From Any Part of The Body
  6. Offensive Odor
  7. Difficulty Eating or Swallowing
  8. Loss of Stamina
  9. Constant Stiffness or Lameness
  10. Difficulties Breathing, Urinating, or Defecating

Check for K9 Cancer 1x/Month

  • Take 10 minutes on the 10th of each month to feel and look for lumps and swellings
  • Check your dog from head to toe including inside his mouth
  • Follow up with an exam with your vet if you find anything suspicious
  • Keep a record of any growths so you can keep track of anything new
  • Watch for unusual behavior or change in attitude

How You Can Help Your Pet

The following tips can help you make a more knowledgeable, rational decision when it comes to treating your pet:

  • Bring a friend/relative to your vet appointments, two sets of ears are better than one
  • Bring paper/pen for taking notes and writing down questions
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions
  • Be sure to ask if there will be changes to their lifestyle during treatment. For example; should you continue routine vacations, or should you isolate your pet from other animals.
  • Know the costs, side effects an how often treatment will be needed
  • Ask for literature on the specific disease
  • Research other ways to finance your pets treatment, in addition to EFFCC so that your decisions are not based on economics
  • Talk to your general vet, specialists, and other pet owners to help you make your decision
  • Make sure that your decisions are based on your pets quality of life