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

Is There A Reason for All This Dog Cancer?

Updated: June 1st, 2021

Dog Cancer Origins

What are some of the reasons for my dog cancer?

“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 D


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  1. Heather C on May 7, 2013 at 4:42 am

    My dog, Barret, is going in for surgery to remove a tumor that grew super fast. They weren’t able to get any fluid out of it with a needle aspiration, so its pretty unknown what it actually is. Is it cancer, is it benign? I’m so worried about him, he is only 4 years old! Cross your fingers for me!!
    Thanks, Heather

  2. Mary Netzer on April 4, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Dr Dressler,
    When my labrador was eight years old, he developed food allergies and began
    to lose weight rapidly. I switched his food to what the vet said was premium
    dry dog food. My dog’s weight stabilized, but then he began to develop mast cell tumors. I began reading everything about dog cancer, allergies, holistic diets and read two of your books. I began cooking your dog diet for my Charlie and supplemented his food with Apocaps, K9 fish oil and mushroom immunity products. I fed him mostly lean meat, cottage cheese, vegetables and fruit.
    I learned how to give him dog massages. That dog lived to the age of 14 and
    we worked together as a team through nine mast cell tumor surgeries. The dog
    never gave up and neither did I. The great thing was that by following your suggestions and removing the tumors as soon as we could find one, (None of the tumors were more than a stage 2) Charlie lived six more quality years. The best thing was that the last three years of his life, he only developed small harmless fatty tumors or dog warts…NO MORE MAST CELL tumors. Eventually we had to let Chuck go, but only because he was rapidly going blind, often falling and had a very weak rear end. Thank you so much for your intelligent research and caring for dogs. I’m so glad I could enjoy my dog and love him without putting him through chemo or radiation. I think your program works!

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on April 10, 2013 at 12:02 pm

      Dear Mary,
      I am so pleased to her this information. I am particularly pleased that he had no more mast cell tumors in the last 3 years of his life, and that he had a great long life!!
      Dr D

  3. Dotty McDowell on April 3, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Oh, by the way, Caine is a eight year old pit bull! Thanks.

  4. Dotty McDowell on April 3, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    My dog was diagnosed with Cancer about two months ago. He’s been on a regiment of a cancer med. blood root liquid 2x day and a pill for nausea 2xday called Metoclopromide. He has been pretty much as active and eats as good as he always has. Now the last few days he has watched us put the blood root liquid in his food so he won’t eat it in the am. If I fix him a steak at night and put it in that he will eat it, but its like he doesn’t like his food in am anymore, he’ll eat his treats if I give them to him but I can’t get the liquid in those. How an I get him to take his food with the Medcine in it? Or what kind of food will mask the smell and taste of liquid bloodroot?

  5. Ann M. McHugh on April 2, 2013 at 3:49 am

    I bought this book when it was in ‘pre-publication’ both online and soft cover because my ‘heart dog’ Andie, a 10 yrs young Keeshond had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and I wanted the book NOW! I am convinced it, along with some gentle chemo helped her live 5 more pretty happy weeks. The specialists were amazed she lived more than a few days after diagnosis. Since then I have recommended it to many others including my veterinarian whose dog lived a year longer than predicted using apocaps. Right now my book is on loan to a friend whose dog was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her spine that has spread.
    With all that said what are your feelings about the early spaying and neutering of puppies/young digs? I know we must be responsible because unwanted dogs are dying daily in shelters, but wouldn’t vasectomy/tubal ligation be preferable to removing needed hormones from growing puppies? Many are now feeling it contributes to the high incidence of hemangio, osteosarcoma and several other cancers.

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on April 10, 2013 at 6:09 pm

      Dear Ann,
      From a medical standpoint, I recommend my canine patients wait for these procedures until between 12 and 24 months of age if that is possible. Sometimes there are issues that make it impossible to delay, but if we can delay, we do.
      I’m glad that you were able to help your dog with some of the methods from the Guide! Great to hear.
      Dr D

  6. SlimDoggy on March 31, 2013 at 6:59 am

    Just from anecdotal evidence of the dogs in my family and dogs of my friends, I would have to agree there seems to be a higher incidence of cancer in dogs and your thoughts on the environmental factors contribution are spot on.

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