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

Summer Dangers for Dogs with Cancer

Updated: June 15th, 2021


Summer dangers for dogs with cancer are right around the corner. Let’s be prepared!

The warmer months often bring a feeling of optimism and ease, and the extra sunshine can make all of us feel a little more upbeat. And yet, there can be summer dangers for dogs with cancer — so let’s take a look.

We often think of our healthy dogs as our protectors – and we are the dog lover, the dog owner.

This is entirely reasonable. A healthy dog protects us, protects our property, and alerts us to threats from the outside… even defends us if attacked.

But when we get a diagnosis of cancer in our dog, much of this balance changes.

We become the guardians, rather than owners, of our dogs, and we realize that it is our job to sustain them and defend them from any threats to their health or life.

Especially after reading The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, we begin to be aware of the many dangers lurking in poor quality foods, fluoridated drinking water, toys full of dyes and chemicals, and common household cleaners.

It turns out that summer, and warm climates in general, can bring an additional set of concerns. Without feeling as if there is a threat around every corner, we need to expand our awareness a little further.

Yard and Garden Maintenance for Your Dog with Cancer

We all love a beautiful green lawn, colorful flower beds and we all generally do not like most bugs.  But what does it take to maintain this idyllic environment?

Weed killers, pesticides, slug pellets, ant powder, fly sprays, and other substances which come with warning labels… ‘’do not ingest”, “if taken internally”, “keep away from children”.

When we consider that our dogs walk and run around both on our own properties and in public parks and open areas, we realize that they can be exposed to any of these products.  But what can we do?

Awareness is the first step.  If our dog remains primarily in his own yard it makes things so much easier. We know what products we are using to keep our property pretty, and we can make choices.

Many lawn treatments will indicate that pets should be kept off the area until a certain amount of time has passed. Dr. Dressler recommends six hours.

(And we can decide whether we really need to use so many chemicals after all.)

Remember, too, that anything airborne – such as sprays – can be easily inhaled by our dog’s tender nose, while surface treatments can be absorbed through the paws.  Slugs or other insects which have been exposed to a poison can be eaten by our dog if that’s her preferred prey of the day.

If your dog frequents a park, body of water, or open field, things are a little harder to judge.  Parks provided for public use will be maintained by gardeners using many of the mentioned products, and open fields may be subject to chemical treatment including fertilizers at certain time of the year.

If you frequent a park, you may be able to find out what their maintenance schedule is and so avoid times immediately after any treatments.

With fields, observe any tractor activity, chemical smells and wilting vegetation. All can be indicators that the area has been treated.

The Great Summer BBQ

Most of us know this by now, but a reminder doesn’t hurt: Traditional bar-be-que involves cooking food over coals, and the unavoidable “too well done” meat. Those of us who love our meat burned have (hopefully) given up that delicacy because it’s been shown that the burned meat is carcinogenic.

In years past it was ‘let the dog have it’ but now we know we don’t want any of our dogs eating charred food.  Avoid giving your dog charred bits, and help spread the word amongst our dog loving friends to help them avoid future problems with their own pack.

Back in our own Home

The fewer chemicals we use in our homes, the healthier we will all be.  Cleaners, carpet sprays and powders, air fresheners and tobacco smoke can all add to an unhealthy environment. Using natural (and inexpensive) cleaning products like baking soda, vinegar, castile soap and hydrogen peroxide can really help. Plus, they smell fantastic!

And if you really want to freshen the air, consider using an air filter — it will help you AND your dog.

‘My Dog’s already sick, what’s the difference?”

This question arises frequently, so it’s worth a mention here.

The logic seems to be that if the dog already has cancer, what can be gained from reducing his exposure to cancer-causing substances?

Well, if you have a cold, and a friend with a cold visits you, odds are you’ll both just ride out your colds in your own time.

But if your house is on fire, would you throw gasoline on it?

This is the difference with a cancer diagnosis.  Cancer creates a vulnerability in the body. We fight it, in part, by creating the healthiest environment possible. We can’t make a perfect environment, and we don’t want to live in a bubble – but ‘the difference’ could be days, weeks, months or more of quality, happy life with your dog.

Some dog lovers dealing with cancer have told me that, while they would never wish for their dog to be ill, the experience raised their awareness of their home and environment, and helped the whole family turn towards more natural ways of keeping everything clean and pretty.

Make it Teamwork

Navigating a cancer diagnosis can be exhausting, and to add to the list the need to check everything mentioned here might seem way too much to take on.  But as with everything else, take a deep breath (of good, clean air!), take it easy and do a little at a time.

Family and friends can help, because it’s really all about common sense.  Give your dog a special hug and let him know that good change are coming.  Then enjoy that bar-be-que!

Susan, Dog Cancer Support Team

Leave a Comment

  1. Diane Hoskin on May 27, 2022 at 4:40 am

    Would like more specific information about Apocaps. Is it suggested for any type of cancer and what benefits
    can be expected.

    • Molly Jacobson on June 13, 2022 at 2:24 pm

      Please read chapter 12 in Dr. Dressler’s book for a lot more details about the ingredients involved and how they may help. All of the supplements Dr. D recommends can be used with any type of cancer in general, although different dogs might have situations or be on other medication/supplements where you need to modify doses or avoid a supplement — it’s best to ask your vet about using any supplement with your own dog.

  2. Marci Trapuzzano on June 17, 2021 at 9:31 pm

    My question concerns the antibacterial sprays used during the pandemic. Spraying Lysol 99% bacteria free spray was a go to when the pandemic started and even before it started. I rountinely started to do a daily spray of it to clean and clear the air and sofa, rugs, dog beds etc. only once a day, usually in the mornings to refresh and bacteria free these items.
    Can the use of these type sprays do more harm then good for my dog? They’re at floor level where most air sprays fall to. Can you help me out with this question?
    Thank you in advance.

    • Molly Jacobson on June 20, 2021 at 12:04 pm

      Hi Marci, I would not use Lysol in areas my dogs lick or walk on, at least, not without rinsing it out. I think at this point we have determined that the coronavirus is spread through aerosolized methods, and very rarely on surfaces. So while of course you want to clean in general, it’s been determined that the sort of obsessive cleaning we did before the aerosolization method was established is just unnecessary. Here’s an article with some ideas about how to safely disinfect surfaces your dogs are near:

  3. Gine Oquendo on August 13, 2018 at 10:56 pm

    My beloved Bambam was diagnosed a bone cancer and iwe’ve been 19 years together. Thank you to pet cremation in Hampton Roads for helping us her arrangement and to all our friends who understand us. we gonna miss you Tagger! For those interested in pet cremation please refer to this link:

  4. Ren on October 7, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    Thank you for taking my question.
    My eleven pound, nearly seven year-old, Chihuahua was diagnosed with mast cell on April second. Within a few days, he was on 2 Apocaps, 2 k-9 chews and 2 IP-6 (also recommended by my MD, their dog with cancer), all twice daily. Four days earlier, he had been started on Prednisone, because I considered chemo then changed my mind when the Prednisone took down the swelling behind both what the nurse described as “knees” plus a one centimeter size button tumor on his back, left “ankle”. When I cancelled the chemo, she said he would be a sick puppy by June. June came and went, while he rested a lot and stayed pretty much at home. I’ve also been ill, but at least coaxed him to eat with boiled chicken, then began preparing the chicken chopped and mixed in oatmeal cooked in broth, seasoned with garlic powder and no-salt. Hadn’t read about fresh garlic yet. Since then, twice I didn’t think he would make it, but he rallied, his appetite returned with a vengeance and by August, I thought the worse was over. Then his throat lymph glands began to swell. The cancer vet was out on maternity leave, so my regular vet ordered Prednisone again, which I had taken him off of after three weeks. Instead of taking them down, they’ve gone to small marble size. Swelling behind the “knees” have stayed pretty much at pea size and a little in the groin has come and gone. Except for the swelling, he’s alert, curious, protective, playful and affectionate but now I fear the worst. I did not know how to contact you until now. Is there anything left I can do that’s natural to fight this and reduce the swelling? Please help me! I don’t like chemo for him. Is there no other way? Is it too late? I’ll do anything if there’s the slightest chance but must confess I’m in little financial position to try and fail. I understand that once it caused swelling in the throat, it has pretty much spread to the rest of the body. Please if you can, I need an answer as soon as possible. I hate to lose my little companion. He’s been so sweet.

  5. dogcancerblog on September 18, 2013 at 6:42 am

    Hello Brad and Deb,

    Dr. Dressler addresses this concern in the full-length edition of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, and we’ll make sure it gets added to the Dog Cancer Diet ebook ASAP, as well. As he notes in his book:

    “There is evidence that large amounts of garlic (1/2 teaspoon per pound of body weight) causes problems in the red blood cells of dogs. I am not concerned about this for the majority of dogs, because the amount of garlic in this recipe is extremely low compared to the amounts used in the study. However, if your dog has anemia, check with your veterinary professional before giving garlic.”
    The original study found garlic had bad effects at extraordinarily high amounts — 1/2 a teaspoon per body weight. The optional amount Dr. Dressler recommends adding to food in his recipe is 1 teaspoon, total. And yes, he definitely recommends garlic (in these small amounts, and always fresh) for dogs with cancer. We hope this helps to clarify things.

  6. Lin on September 9, 2013 at 6:30 am

    Thanks for this blog, Susan. Like Brad, I have the question about garlic’s safety. Also, Dr. Dean O’Dell on ABC News last week reported a study of alarming levels of arsnic in American rice, especially brown rice, which is recommended in the diet. I have been feeding my dog soley brown rice as the grain in the cancer diet. Should I switch to only oatmeal? She is doing so well, by the way! More than five months post op.

  7. brad on August 28, 2013 at 10:55 am

    Hi – sorry to post this here, but the comments are “closed” on the diet related posts. Dr. Dressler’s eBook says to add several cloves of minced raw garlic every day, but I’ve read several places (including WebMD?) that this is very dangerous for dogs.

    Can someone please confirm if I am understanding this correctly? I want to do everything possible for my dog, should i, or should i not add raw garlic?

    Thank you!

    • deb s on September 9, 2013 at 5:47 am

      I have also found this to be very confusing and would appreciate knowing the reply, as well.

    • Susan Kazara Harper on September 19, 2013 at 5:36 am

      Brad, You’re correct that there are many warnings out there about foods that aren’t good for our pets, and it’s wise to be aware of them. However, very often the warnings are blanket statements and this does not apply to everything. As an example, grapes are not good for dogs, but one or two grapes would not normally cause a problem whereas an entire bunch all at once, or a lot of grapes every day for a long period could cause problems. Garlic has many very healthy properties and Dr Dressler has researched it carefully to advise the best way to take advantage of it’s natural properties while maintaining safety for our dogs. I’ve given garlic to my dogs for years with absolutely not ill effects. So I recommend that if you would like your dog to benefit from the garlic as recommended, start slowly and observe. Don’t add a lot all at once because any sudden dietary change can cause a bit of stomach upset. All the best!

Scroll To Top