“Why did my dog get cancer?
This is a tough question to answer, but I’d like to provide a bit of information about how I think about cancer to help answer this question.
First, a bit about the disease itself, and what we know right now. Cancer cells look and behave like young body cells. Cancers grow, they spread, they create blood vessels around themselves, they make little organ things (tumors), they organize connective tissue around themselves (capsules), they recruit other cells to help them (white blood cells, fibroblasts, endothelial cells and others), they have specialized cells that help organize and support the other cells (stem cells), they metabolize fuel in a way that suits how they are put together (anaerobic metabolism), they send chemical signals out so the body delivers food to them from the liver, muscle, and fat, their growth is dictated by their surroundings….and all of this is kind of like a normal body system that is in charge of rapid restoration and growth of new tissue.
So cancer is almost like very vigorous new tissue. The main problems are that cancer growth not organized or controlled well. But basically when one really looks at cancer and the way it behaves, it is very much like what the body does when it is trying to fix itself after being harmed.
This may sound a bit bizarre to some readers, since cancer is such a bad disease, so harmful and destructive. But if you will bear with me for a moment, this direction will loop back towards something sensible.
It is my belief that our dog’s bodies, and ours as well, exist in an environment that has never been encountered in the history of earth. The industrial revolution heralded the beginning of a new way of life, and it is no mystery that the pace of global manufacture and its scale has never been achieved until now. With it, the byproducts: new kinds and amounts of molecules released as industrial waste. Unfortunately, this waste is not necessarily what is permitted or regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to the high number of spills and accidents, nor does the EPA account for interactions between different kinds of molecules at the same time in the body (synergy) during safety studies.
So the body encounters a lot of these new and unusual molecules on a daily basis.
Next, we have food preparation. The food we eat, as well as our dogs, is generally cooked at pretty high temperatures, creating things like acrylamide and hetercyclic amines, that were not present prior to cooking in this way. The simple and short story is that these are carcinogenic. Then of course we have certain preservatives like sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite, which, when consumed with proteins, form the N-nitroso compounds, also carcinogenic. This happens in the stomach or intestine. One encounters this combo with things like preserved meat treats that are pink color, ham, sausage, bacon, and so on.
Then, not to belabor the point further but I will, there is another byproduct of industrial ingenuity, the engine. These days most of the engines involve fossil fuel consumption of some sort, like gasoline, diesel, oil, and so on. When these fuels are burned (creating the compression that drives the engine), a class of carcinogens called the aromatic hydrocarbons are released into the air.
I could go on and on, and so I might as well in the next blog post. For the time being, let me give you a trailer to the punchline: the body is fighting all this stuff constantly, and it creates a lot of low grade inflammation. The inquisitive readers, or those with a background in this material, will immediately see the connection between this statement and the beginning of this post. I will fill in more of the details in the next post as there is much more to this story, so stay tuned.
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.