Okay, this time we are going outside the box (one of my favorite areas!) There is oodles of evidence linking depression and stress to human cancers. This is a mind-body connection that is backed up with real science, folks. However, to my knowledge, the connection between depression stress and dog cancer has not been looked at in any detail.
So, what is the evidence? First, depression and chronic stress lower survival time for cancer patients. Put another way, low stress and no depression can mean a longer life, even in those who have cancer.
Next, stress and chronic depression release hormones and signals (epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol) in the body that DIRECTLY STIMULATE cancer cells. In other words, when you are stressed and/or depressed, any cancer cells that happen to be in the body are encouraged.
Finally, these hormones suppress immune system cells that are involved in cancer cell destruction. Natural killer (NK) cells and cytotoxic T cells are in charge of destroying cancer cells. But when you’re stressed and depressed, your body stops making as many of those cells … letting cancer cells stay alive to grow and multiply.
So does the same apply to depression, stress and dog cancer? Sure. A dog’s body has the same hormones and the same processes. As a matter of fact, dogs are becoming the preferred model for studying human cancers.
I can hear some readers reacting now … “what does my dog have to be stressed or depressed about?”
Or, “she/he doesn’t look stressed or depressed. My canine companion is fine!”
Maybe. But what if, managing stress and depression actively was an area that could be focused on in attacking dog cancer? If we are interested in doing everything possible to fight tumors, why not? This could be one way to boost the immune response without the use of drugs or financial investment.
I’ll let you work on that one and we’ll check it out in the next post.
Best to all,
Dr. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.
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