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

Why is Canine Cancer Still Winning? Part 1

Updated: May 3rd, 2019

Those who have experienced the frustration and sadness in caring for a dog with cancer may have wondered, “Why is cancer still winning after all this time?”

In the last forty years, successes in cancer treatment relative to effort have been pretty meager.  Even if one were to spend the average total price tag of $5000-8000 dollars for surgery, chemo and radiation as needed, things remain dreary.

I came across this recently in a Molecular Cancer Therapeutics article:

“Combination treatment involving surgical removal of the tumor and adjuvant chemotherapy is the most common treatment, but the prognosis for dogs having an invasive/metastatic tumor is poor, with median survival time ranging from weeks to months. Other treatments, such as radiation therapy and palliative treatment, have only limited success.”

And if you have a dog afflicted with this predator, you are experiencing the reality of how wimpy conventional care actually is improving lifespan and life quality for periods beyond 6-10 months, and unbearably, often much less.  Why is this the case?

There are two areas to look at.  Let’s examine one in this post

First, cancer starts when our dogs are youngsters.  Exposures to invisible carcinogens in the modern world starts early.  Aberrant cells caused by genes are created by genetic bloodlines.  Dietary mismatches between commercial food and optimal health start during puppy-hood.  Modern living suppresses immune responses.  And more.

Get a copy of Dr. Dressler’s comprehensive Dog Cancer Survival Guide, and all 47 webinars to help your dog with cancer

So by the time we actually can see the problem as a physical issue or something that turns up on testing, we are late in the game.
This is why dogs 10 years or older have a 40- 50% chance of dying of cancer.

It is like having a car which, as we are driving along, suddenly the tire pops off, seemingly out of nowhere.  What in the world??  How did that happen?  Upon closer inspection, we see that actually, over the last years of life, the bolts have been slowly corroding due to salt, moisture,  poor metal quality, and so on.

Looking further, we realize that the bolts on all tires have been corroding for years!  This is the type of situation we are faced with in dog cancer.  The problem is starting much earlier than we think. It takes multiple hits to the DNA to create cancer cells, and this occurs over a long period of time.  The things that favor the growth of these cells, permitting their presence, also need time to be established.

We need to start earlier and raise awareness of cancer in the dog.  We need to provide appropriate levels of apoptogens (substances that turn on apoptosis)  to encourage replacement of deranged cells with healthy cells. We need to get our dogs on diets that mirror one eaten in the wild.  They need physical exertion and mental stimulation.

For more information, check out The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

All of these can help.

Best to all,

Dr D

Leave a Comment

  1. Dr. Dressler on August 20, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Hi everyone,
    well, seems we all have some viewpoints on this!
    A couple of points:

    a. there are very few vets out there who are making big bucks

    b. the materials cost for chemo is extremely high

    c. veterinarians, like you and I, are people doing the best they can with the resources they have in life. These resources may not be the same as what you or I have.

    d. cancer is formidable, which is why we are where we are. It is not that people are evil.

    e. we do know why cancer occurs. Not necessarily on the molecular level in all cases, but just a notch up macroscopically, we have the data. However, answers are complex, not simple though, and there is no single cause.

    f. we should try to remember that choices which bring us together help us all, and those that separate us hurt everyone

    Dr D

  2. Dale on August 20, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Wow, a lot of conspiracy theories going on here. Dogs in the wild will eat anything, they are scavengers. They also don’t live very long. I agree with giving a good quality dog food (no grains as the top ingredients) but, please, a raw diet will not save your pets. Cancer strikes (and I just lost my 9 year old GSD a couple of weeks ago to cancer). Chemo is an option in some cases, your vet isn’t out to steal your money by offering it. Most people jump on it because they can’t think straight. I’ve read so many stories about people doing everything possible to “save” their pets when it is clear they are only prolonging their suffering. It’s an ugly disease but it happens and, for the most part, we don’t know why.

  3. Valerie on August 20, 2009 at 10:27 am

    I also must agree with James! He’s right on the money (forgive the pun) Conventional medicine is big bucks!!! They don’t have the answers so they keep racking up HUGE BILLS (great vacations and lifestyles for them!)Real, dedicated vets like Dr. Dressler are not in this for the money. They became vets oput of their own love and passion for humane animal care!!!! Get real and don’t be so naive! My 10 year-old baby Katie died from mandibular cancer (upper jaw). Exactly like Dr. Dressler describes, no warning signs. Nobody has any answers! G-d bless my son who knows about nutrition and says we should feed out pets as if they were in the wild on a raw diet. I mean excellent quality beef (Whole Foods)–no skimping here…if you are the Mom or Dad to an animal please don’t be cheap with their food!, and think holistically. I agree with the BEWARE about vaccines and medicagtions, especially steriods!!! I mistakenly gave my other baby Lucy, age 3 Temoril-P and Oh my G-d she almost died!!! It caused her to have gastroenteritis and almost pancreatitis!!! She was hospitalized with an IV drip for 2 nights and left all alone overnight (this I wholeheartedly disagreed with and told the vet so)!!!So please, please, please take caution with our babies and don’t medicate them. It kills them instead of helping them. It’s all for $$$. Thank you for listening.

  4. Maggie on August 20, 2009 at 8:55 am

    I have to agree with what most of you are saying about the over-use of vacines, steriods, the use of chemotherapy for cancer, and the shoddy ingredients in dog food. Six years ago I took in a stray dog that had been dumped collarless and diseased on our street, along with another dog of the same breed. The dog with cancer died in 6 months, and mine, the one with cushings is still alive. I love her dearly. But its been a hard road. It took two vets over a year to diagnose her with cushings (an immune, and she was put on Lysodren, a chemo-type drug, that made her life miserable, with vomiting and diahrrea almost continuous. When I realized she was going to die, I took her off the Lysodren to make her last days better. To my surprise, the cushing’s symptoms disappeared for about a year and a half. Now they are back, and I’m dealing with the symptoms, but I refuse to give her the meds. I have her on a self-make diet, with herbs, vitamins, naturopathy, and frequent bathing to stop the bacterial infestion from the skin lesions of cushings. She’s about 16 yrs old, and I think has a better life. If anyone has heard of anything else that could help her, I always looking for more. Thanks. Maggie

  5. Beverly Dagneau on August 20, 2009 at 7:48 am

    I agree whole heartedly with “James Carrell” and Karen Howard. I’ve had the same experience with my beloved dog who I just lost to Lymphoma cancer. The vet wanted to immediately put him through chemotherapy for 6 months at the tune of about $8,000.00, which by the way would not cure him per the vet, maybe give him a year to year and a half longer and what gurantee of quality life during that time would he have? The vet get’s rich and I still lose my dog. Why put my dog through so much, so I opted not to do that. Instead I put him on a fresh holistic diet, which included many vaious vitamins and herbs. I was able to give him another 8 months without side effects or sickness. Yes, I still lost him, but, for me it shows that there is a lot to diet even when it comes a bit too late, because from what I’ve been told, it is unheard of for a animal to survive with Lymphoma cancer without chemo more than 2 months. My precious boy went 8 months. Still, there must be more to this than meets the eye. I too am convinced that vacciniations are part of the problem and my vet by the way agreed with me that among veterians currently, there is controvesy regarding this issue. Doesn’t that say something? I believe we are over vaccinating our pets just like we do our human babies. Also, I feel what we feed our pets is making them sick (bagged/canned dog food). How much nutrition can possibly come from dry, heated bagged/canned anything, whether it be for humans or animals. Added vitamins to bagged/canned dog food are subject to intense heat which defeats the purpose, etc. Where’s the fresh meat and veggies that animals need, just as people need? So…. what background do I have in all this? It’s called good ole common sence and research! Do the research yourself, you’ll be appalled and shocked at what is allowed in our pets dog food. And regarding vaccinating your pets, read the pro’s and con’s, it’s enough to make one pause. The fact that there is controversy should be a red flag. You don’t have to have a Dr’s degree to figure out what makes sence and what doesn’t. I wish I had known more before my precious dog got sick, I didn’t, but now I do.


  6. Karen Howard on August 20, 2009 at 5:12 am

    Our beloved mixed breed hound/Shepherd had a brush with cancer 2 years ago… was just pre cancerous and he was fine for the next 2 years…then one morning I noticed a lump on his leg. Took him to the vet, who diagnosed it as cancerous. He also without even asking! went ahead and pumped 6 vaccines into our sweet boy. 10 days later his lymph nodes were enlarged and we learned he had come down with lumphoma. He was dead 3 months later, even with everything we could give him, from chemo to supplements to vitamins to intravenous vitamin C. We loved him like a child.

    I curse that vet. As far as I am concerned, he murdered our boy. You do not pump vaccines into dogs with compromised immune systems….you do not inject that stuff into a dog who has cancer!!!!!

    Beware people!

  7. Dale on August 20, 2009 at 3:50 am

    James, what background do you have, or better yet, research to back up your absurd claims? Using all CAPS and lots of !!!!!!! doesn’t make you right, just makes you look nutty.

  8. james carrell on August 18, 2009 at 10:33 am

    this is for Chuck and his little baby,,,,,i am not sure about curcumin for pancreatitus,,,,,i know that a good diet change does wonders. One of our babies has arthritus creeping in, and she has responded well to the curcumin,,,it also helps with MY arthritus
    When i mentioned a GOOD diet change,,,,,there is a really good book out there,, it is written by a Dr. Pitcairn,,,,it has A TON of info on stuff. I know with Pancreatitus,,,you have to be careful of the diet and supplements,,,,it is not pretty when the Pancreatitus gets the upper hand. From what i have figured out,,,the hard way,,,,most of these “DISEASES” are AUTO-IMMUNE in origin,,,,,the body actually starts attacking itself,,,Pancreatitus is similar to diabetes, both are treatable with the idea of TEACHING the body to fix itself. If the IMMUNE system is going hay-wire, a lot of BAD things can pop up.
    good luck to you two

  9. Chuck on August 17, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Hi, have an off topic question for you. I have a beloved dog named Chelsea. Chelsea has been afflicted with pancreatitis. In today’s LA Times it was mentioned that curcumin has appeared beneficial in mice with pancreatitis. Is curcumin safe for dogs and what kind of dose would be administered? Plus I know curcumin/turmeric is poorly absorbed so I take a type with piperine (bioperine). Is piperine safe for dogs.

    Once again I apologize for being off topic but am trying to find help.

    Thank you.

  10. james carrell on August 14, 2009 at 4:13 am

    although i agree with some of the stuff mentioned here, i am going to throw out a lot of other things to think of………ANYTHING that negatively affects the IMMUNE SYSTEM of an organism,,,,from microbe to an elephant,,,,,can POTENTIONALLY,,,,cause “CANCER”
    let’s look at some REALLY BAD ones…..

    VACCINES,,,,way too many being FORCED into our BABIES’ bodies,,,,,what happens is the OVER-USE of vaccines causes the IMMUNE SYSTEM to get confused,,,,,AND OVERLOADED
    this is NOT pretty,,,,,and you will spend THOUSANDS of dollars just to have NO IDEA what is going on,,,,CONVENTIONAL VETS will NOT be able to figure it out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Antibiotics,,,,good thing right??? WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    these chew up the GI TRACT of anybody that has them forced into them,,they also cause NASTY yeast and other fungal infections to GO CRAZY in the body. The GI tract is one of many DEFENSES that the body has against INFECTIONS, parasites, etc.

    STEROIDS,,,,,,,,,,,if your vet prescribes PREDNISONE, or CORTISONE,,,for anything less than A LIFE-THREATENING issue,,,,you might as well take your BABY out back and shoot him!!!!!!!!!!!
    Steroids actually turn the IMMUNE SYSTEM off,,,,,that’s what i said,,,,,,THEY TURN THE IMMUNE SYSTEM OFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    They do not cure anything,,,,,,,,they make you FEEL awesome,,,,while they are ripping apart the body from the inside-out!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Goodbye LIVER,,,,,goodbye KIDNEYS,,,,,,goodbye STOMACH/GI TRACT


    As far as HOW I KNOW THESE THINGS,,,,,my wife and I have had 5 canines and 1 feline together,,,,,EVERYONE OF OUR BABIES HAS BEEN MADE VERY SICK BY CONVENTIONAL MEDICINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    vaccines are very good at screwing up the Immune system,,,,breaking out in hives/rashes,,,,first sign something is wrong,,,,aggressive behaviour,,,,,,YOU JUST PAID SOMEONE TO GIVE YOUR BABY RABIES

    PLEASE GET INFORMED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!TOO MANY BABIES ARE BEING MURDERED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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