The warmer months often bring a feeling of optimism and ease, and the extra sunshine can make all of us feel a little more upbeat. And yet, there can be summer dangers for dogs with cancer — so let’s take a look.
We often think of our healthy dogs as our protectors – and we are the dog lover, the dog owner.
This is entirely reasonable. A healthy dog protects us, protects our property, and alerts us to threats from the outside… even defends us if attacked.
But when we get a diagnosis of cancer in our dog, much of this balance changes.
We become the guardians, rather than owners, of our dogs, and we realize that it is our job to sustain them and defend them from any threats to their health or life.
Especially after reading The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, we begin to be aware of the many dangers lurking in poor quality foods, fluoridated drinking water, toys full of dyes and chemicals, and common household cleaners.
It turns out that summer, and warm climates in general, can bring an additional set of concerns. Without feeling as if there is a threat around every corner, we need to expand our awareness a little further.
Yard and Garden Maintenance for Your Dog with Cancer
We all love a beautiful green lawn, colorful flower beds and we all generally do not like most bugs. But what does it take to maintain this idyllic environment?
Weed killers, pesticides, slug pellets, ant powder, fly sprays, and other substances which come with warning labels… ‘’do not ingest”, “if taken internally”, “keep away from children”.
When we consider that our dogs walk and run around both on our own properties and in public parks and open areas, we realize that they can be exposed to any of these products. But what can we do?
Awareness is the first step. If our dog remains primarily in his own yard it makes things so much easier. We know what products we are using to keep our property pretty, and we can make choices.
Many lawn treatments will indicate that pets should be kept off the area until a certain amount of time has passed. Dr. Dressler recommends six hours.
(And we can decide whether we really need to use so many chemicals after all.)
Remember, too, that anything airborne – such as sprays – can be easily inhaled by our dog’s tender nose, while surface treatments can be absorbed through the paws. Slugs or other insects which have been exposed to a poison can be eaten by our dog if that’s her preferred prey of the day.
If your dog frequents a park, body of water, or open field, things are a little harder to judge. Parks provided for public use will be maintained by gardeners using many of the mentioned products, and open fields may be subject to chemical treatment including fertilizers at certain time of the year.
If you frequent a park, you may be able to find out what their maintenance schedule is and so avoid times immediately after any treatments.
With fields, observe any tractor activity, chemical smells and wilting vegetation. All can be indicators that the area has been treated.
The Great Summer BBQ
Most of us know this by now, but a reminder doesn’t hurt: Traditional bar-be-que involves cooking food over coals, and the unavoidable “too well done” meat. Those of us who love our meat burned have (hopefully) given up that delicacy because it’s been shown that the burned meat is carcinogenic.
In years past it was ‘let the dog have it’ but now we know we don’t want any of our dogs eating charred food. Avoid giving your dog charred bits, and help spread the word amongst our dog loving friends to help them avoid future problems with their own pack.
Back in our own Home
The fewer chemicals we use in our homes, the healthier we will all be. Cleaners, carpet sprays and powders, air fresheners and tobacco smoke can all add to an unhealthy environment. Using natural (and inexpensive) cleaning products like baking soda, vinegar, castile soap and hydrogen peroxide can really help. Plus, they smell fantastic!
And if you really want to freshen the air, consider using an air filter — it will help you AND your dog.
‘My Dog’s already sick, what’s the difference?”
This question arises frequently, so it’s worth a mention here.
The logic seems to be that if the dog already has cancer, what can be gained from reducing his exposure to cancer-causing substances?
Well, if you have a cold, and a friend with a cold visits you, odds are you’ll both just ride out your colds in your own time.
But if your house is on fire, would you throw gasoline on it?
This is the difference with a cancer diagnosis. Cancer creates a vulnerability in the body. We fight it, in part, by creating the healthiest environment possible. We can’t make a perfect environment, and we don’t want to live in a bubble – but ‘the difference’ could be days, weeks, months or more of quality, happy life with your dog.
Some dog lovers dealing with cancer have told me that, while they would never wish for their dog to be ill, the experience raised their awareness of their home and environment, and helped the whole family turn towards more natural ways of keeping everything clean and pretty.
Make it Teamwork
Navigating a cancer diagnosis can be exhausting, and to add to the list the need to check everything mentioned here might seem way too much to take on. But as with everything else, take a deep breath (of good, clean air!), take it easy and do a little at a time.
Family and friends can help, because it’s really all about common sense. Give your dog a special hug and let him know that good change are coming. Then enjoy that bar-be-que!
Susan, Dog Cancer Support Team