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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

After Cancer: Do Carcinogens Matter?

Updated: October 5th, 2018

According to the National Cancer Institute, carcinogens are any substance that causes cancer.

It makes sense that we would want to protect healthy dogs from carcinogens.  Since dog cancer is the number one cause of death, limiting a family pet’s carcinogen exposure is the right choice.

But, what if your dog already has cancer?

Does it still make sense, if the damage is already done?

The answer may be yes. Scientists have found that the DNA in cancer cells is unstable. This means that it can change on it’s own, creating new mutations. These changes can give the cancer cells new traits, some of which increase how aggressive the cancer behaves.

It has also been shown that the mutations in cancer cells increase if the cancer is more advanced. This suggests that the more aggressive cancers have more mutations.

So what does this mean?  Simply put, as cancer grows, it can change and get stronger.  The way this happens is through cancer cell  DNA changes.

What nasty substances are known to cause DNA to change? Carcinogens.

In my opinion, if one were to expose cancer cells, that already have unstable DNA, to substances known to change DNA, we may create a perfect storm.  In other words, the mutation rate could spike, creating a tsunami of aberrant cancer cells that shift and morph into tougher forms.

For this reason, it seems logical that we should start paying attention to carcinogen exposure to try to get an edge in dog cancer treatment.

Carcinogens are discussed in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, and can be found in food, water, air, and the environment.


Dr D

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  1. Calcium Tablets May Contain Carcinogenic Lead on February 13, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    […] cancer, we want to avoid lead for another reason.  Lead is classified as a probable carcinogen. Exposing a dog with cancer to carcinogens very likely makes the cancer worse and more difficult to […]

  2. Joanne Foley on May 6, 2010 at 12:42 am

    My 6 year old collie Leah, has lymphoma, she has had chemo and is now in remission and I am using the full spectrum cancer care diet and supplements from your book (which I think is fantastic). I wanted to ask about flea treatments, as I believe frontline is a mild pesticide and therefore a carcinogen? Is it unwise for me to treat her with frontline? And if so, can you recommend any safer flea treatments? Thank you for all your guidance. Jo

    • Dr. Dressler on May 16, 2010 at 11:41 am

      Dear Joanne,
      I need to be careful here to avoid legal liability. Suffice it to say if I am forced to pick a topical pesticide in my patients I personally use a permethrin-containing product.
      Dr D

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