How is it possible that our loved dogs can be acting fine, without any signs of disease, and have cancer?
This is a pretty common scenario, actually. Many dog lovers have gone to the vet to have a lump checked out. Then, sometimes even on the same day, the news arrives: cancer.
Whether this is a mast cell tumor, osteosarcoma, lymphosarcoma or some other kind of cancer, the news is horrific. There is literally not much that can truly prepare someone.
It is very natural that questions will arise next. If my veterinarian is saying that my dog has cancer, how did this happen? Aren’t cancer patients sick? Shouldn’t there be some other sign if it really is as bad as the vet is saying?
The answer is no, not necessarily. The key, in part, is in looking back to the natural world. Here’s why: in nature, it is not helpful to act sick. Sick animals get eaten since they stand out from the pack. They attract the attention of predators.
Another reason acting sick in the wild is detrimental is that a dog could lose its pack position. To maintain their status among peers, it is better to be healthy and vigorous. Those acting sick lose status. Thus they have a strong social penalty for acting ill.
It becomes clear that showing signs of sickness can make matters worse for a dog in the wild. There is a strong instinctive drive hide illness.
Get a copy of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide to read more on canine cancer
This instinct creates a problem when our canine companions are in need of medical attention. Due to this strong natural tendency, dogs will also hide their physical problems from those responsible for them: us! Many medical problems are kept under wraps, masked from caring dog guardians.
There is another reason dogs can act as if nothing is wrong while there is a cancer brewing. Maybe a given dog has a malignant tumor, but it has not spread enough to cause really significant tissue injury. Many have heard accounts when a lump was found in an otherwise healthy person, only to discover it was malignant.
Since there has not yet been significant tissue injury from cancer spread, both humans and dogs with cancer can act normally.
Cancer usually starts as just a few old, deranged cells that should have been replaced by healthy, vital cells. This normal disappearance of these deranged cells is called apoptosis. If there is an apoptosis deficiency in the body, these cells will accumulate. Until the point is reached where remaining healthy cells can no longer support the whole body, dogs act normal. Until the effect of the pile of deranged cells tips the scale, we see no problem.
This tipping point is called decompensation, and is a fundamental phenomenon in health and disease.
There is an in-depth discussion of cancer development in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.
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.
Discover the Full Spectrum Approach to Dog Cancer
- The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Paperback | eBook
- FREE Excerpted eBook from The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: The Dog Cancer Diet
- The Dog Cancer Coping Guide: CD | MP3
- Dr. Dressler's in-depth audio seminars: Dog Cancer Vet Seminar Series
- Online Dog Cancer Shop for Supplements and Gear Powered by Amazon, Curated by Us: US | UK/EU
- Dr. Dressler's Nutraceuticals on Amazon: EverPup® | Apocaps®