Causes of Cancer in Your Cat or Dog 

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dogCancer in dogs and cats is actually more common than most people realize. Understanding more about this disease and ways to help reduce risk can help your pet live a healthier, happier life. This article will deal with some of the causes of cancer in pets and some steps that you can take to help reduce risk.

Overall Cause of Cancer

Cancer is caused by changes in DNA, which results in abnormal cell growth. While not all abnormal cell growth is malignant or cancerous, some are. There are several things that can lead to changes in your pet’s DNA.

Cancer-Causing Agents

While the propensity toward cancer can be inherited, there are many other things that can cause cancer in pets besides having a related family member that suffered or suffers from the disease. Here are just some of the agents that may cause cancer in pets.

Chronic Inflammation

Chronic low levels of inflammation in your pet’s body weakens the immune system and has been cited as a cause of several health issues both in humans and in pets. One of the main causes of chronic inflammation in the body is eating an unhealthy diet. So, to help reduce your pet’s chances of cancer, try and feed him or her a healthy and appropriate diet that is high in antioxidants.

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes have been also linked to cancer in dogs and cats. Medicines containing estrogen or testosterone can affect the DNA and result in cancer cells forming. While you may not be able to prevent natural hormonal changes from occurring, you can avoid medications for pets that will increase their chances of hormonal changes.


viruses can result in DNA mutations, especially those retro-viruses that occur in cats, and are the cause of other serious diseases, such as feline leukemia. Try and protect your cat from exposure to other cats that may carry these viruses.

While there is a vaccine for the feline immunodeficiency virus, the vaccine itself may cause cancer. So, it is best to avoid the vaccine if at all possible.

Cancer-Causing Chemicals

Dogs and cats may be subjected to numerous cancer-causing chemicals, including household cleaners, fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. The best way to reduce the risk of your pet coming into contact with these cancer-causing chemicals is

to try and live a greener lifestyle by using organic cleaning products and avoiding spraying your yard and garden with chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. Doing this will also prove to be healthier for you and your family as well.

Ultraviolet Radiation

Just as humans can contact skin cancer when exposed to high quantities of ultraviolet radiation, so can pets. While your pet does need to be outside in the sunshine and fresh air and does need to get exercise, try to limit your pet’s exposure to those ultraviolet rays by providing a shaded area for him or her to run and play.


Asbestos is a cancer-causing material that is still causing problems for people and pets today. Limit your pet’s exposure to places where asbestos may be present. And if working on any type of home built prior to 1960, where asbestos may be present, keep your pet well away from the area and follow all asbestos safety procedures to reduce exposure to this deadly material.

Spleen Cancer

Spleen cancer creates a special problem in pets, and treatment of this cancer is often difficult. In most cases, pet owners do not know that there is problem until the blood blister-like tumors break open and bleeding occurs. By the time spleen cancer is identified, the cancer has more than likely spread to organs of the body.

Chinese medicine believes that spleen problems, including spleen cancer, is a result of poor diet and damp conditions. So, again, a healthy diet may help to reduce the risk of this type of cancer in your pet. In addition, ensuring that your pet has a dry and comfortable area to sleep and play may also help to reduce his or her risk.

While there is no guarantee that your pet will never contact some form of cancer, doing your best to reduce the risks of him or her being subjected to the agents that cause this disease may well help your dog or cat remain cancer-free for life.

Please check back with us in the next issue of Natural Awakenings to learn about nutrition for your pet while going through chemo.

Source: Michel Selmer, DVM, of Advanced Animal Care Center, located at 260 Evergreen Ave., South Huntington. For more information, call 631-FOR-PETS (631-367-7387) or visit

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