As readers of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide know, dogs who have not been spayed by their fourth heat run a higher risk for mammary cancer. (Spaying offers its own risks for other types of cancer, but that’s another post.)
But other factors can contribute to canine mammary cancer, and some of these are not as well known. It turns out that, as in humans, diet is a very important part of cancer development. It is estimated that diet accounts for about a third of human cancer cases, and I believe diet will be getting more attention in the veterinary profession as time goes on — if only because the general public seems to intuitively understand the connection between diet and cancer already.
Many readers of this blog cook for their dogs, and I’m sure some are thinking that this is the ticket. But avoiding commercial dog foods is not the only answer. The relationship between diet and cancer is complicated — in particular for mammary cancer.
A rationale is often made that a home made diet should mimic that of a wild dog or wolf. In particular, it should be raw. I’m interested in this and talk about it at length in my book, including the use of human-grade food ingredients in dog’s meals — but we should all realize that the jury is still out on this.
It’s complicated… so let’s take a closer look. Let’s look at red meat. Do dogs in the wild consistently get red meat? Of course not. They are unable to kill large prey every day. Smaller dogs are even less likely to consume daily red meat in the wild as it is harder for them to bring down large game.
And the truth is that beef today is largely fed corn, as opposed to previous decades in which herds of cows grazed wild grass. This changes the fats in the meat. Red meat is not what it used to be.
It turns out there are links between continual feeding of home made diets that have a lot of red meat (beef or pork) and little chicken: obesity, but also canine mammary cancer. One of the central players seems to be a certain type of fatty acid called oleic acid, which was found in higher levels in the dogs with mammary tumors.
As a matter of fact, oleate (similar to oleic acid) was found to slow down the beneficial process of apoptosis in human breast cancer cells. Apoptosis is the genetically programmed, beneficial cell death of cancer cells (this is where the name Apocaps came from, by the way). Less apoptosis, less cancer cell death, and more cancer cells.
So what’s the take home message? Don’t feed your female dog red meat every day. Rotate other protein sources such as chicken and fish. Rotate in beef and pork perhaps every 1-2 weeks (The Guide has specific directions on how to use home made and/or commercial foods for dogs with cancer). This is particularly true if your dog is overweight, is not spayed, or already has developed mammary nodules.
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.