Causes of Cancer in Cats and Dogs
Hearing the news that your pet has been diagnosed with cancer can be both devastating and terrifying at the same time. It is natural to have many questions about exactly what the diagnosis means, what might happen to your pet as the cancer progresses, and what options you have for treating the disease.
One of the most common questions owners ask veterinarians when their pet is diagnosed with cancer is "What caused my pet’s cancer?" Unfortunately, this is a very difficult question to answer accurately, as in nearly all cases cancer is typically caused by a combination of genetic and environmental influences, many of which may have occurred years before the diagnosis was made.
The fact that certain types of cancers occur more often in particular breeds of dogs and cats lends much evidence to the concept of a genetic cause for the disease. We do know that the genetic mutations that cause cancer can occur in the reproductive cells of male and female animals, and these mutations can be passed on to puppies and kittens, giving rise to a heritable predisposition to different types of tumors. Most cancers, however, arise from mutations that occur to genes during a dog’s or cat’s lifetime that were not present at birth. These mutations can result from internal factors, such as exposure to naturally occurring hormones, or external factors, such as environmental tobacco smoke, chemicals, or even sunlight.
In people we know that up to one-third of all tumors are related to environmental and lifestyle factors. In veterinary oncology, we have discovered that nutrition, hormones, viruses, and carcinogens such as smoke, pesticides, UV light, asbestos, waste incinerators, polluted sites, radioactive waste, and canned cat foods can increase the risk of cancer in pets.
Some examples of known causes of cancer in companion animals include:
Increased risk of mammary cancer in un-spayed female dogs and cats.
Studies have shown conflicting information regarding the risk of exposure to herbicides and/or pesticides and the development of cancer in pets. For example, some studies have shown an increased risk for the development of lymphoma, which is a cancer of white blood cells, while other studies have refuted the risk. Because the results are inconclusive its is generally recommend that owners should strive to minimize their pets’ exposure to these chemicals and discuss any concerns they may have with their primary care veterinarian.
It is important to remember that it is often difficult to prove "cause and effect" when it comes to cancer. This is true for even well designed research studies designed to look at those exact parameters, so one has to be careful when researching this topic and not over interpret the available information. There are so many potential interactions between genes and environment influences that could lead to the development of a tumor, and ultimately, we may never be able to know exactly what caused the cancer in the first place.
A Peaceful Farewell provides compassionate in-home pet euthanasia to fellow pet owners in Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Tempe, Ahwatukee, Scottsdale, and most of the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area.
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