Cancer is the ultimate foe in veterinary medicine. It has so many ways of surviving and eluding. One of cancer’s clever survival tricks is avoiding destruction by the body. A dog’s body has many ways of protecting itself. A biggy is the immune system.
A dog’s immune system is able to tell what is supposed to be in the body, and what is not. The first way it does this is by being able to differentiate between “self” and “non-self”. This is a basic difference. Self-cells belong in the dog’s body, and they perform normal functions. Spleen cells are in the spleen, bone cells in bone, mammary cells in mammary glands, and so on. Non-self cells should not be in the body. Some of these include viruses, bacteria, damaged cells, fungi, and more.
The situation changes when a tumor, say a hemangiosarcoma, grows in the spleen. Or an osteosarcoma grows in the bone or a mammary adenocarcinoma in the mammary (breast gland). Bone, mammary and spleen tumors are some common cancers in dogs. The cells in the cancer are different from normal cells, and the dog’s immune system is supposed to pick them up and destroy them.
Here is the catch: since cancer cells came from body cells, the immune system often misses them. The dog’s immune system “reads” the outside of cells to tell if they are part of the body or not. The outside of cancer cells are very similar to normal body cells, and the immune system does not react to them.
This is an area that is quite hot in cancer research. We can increase the immune system’s activity in a dog’s body. There are MANY ways to do this, some that don’t cost a cent. I found lots of publications with very solid data in my research for the book. I look forward to keeping you in the loop! I’ll go into one 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.