The link between humans and animals is obvious, to the point that they even share the same cancers. Just like humans, predisposing factors for cancer can be found in your pet's physiology or their environment.

Here we focus on just some predisposing factors for cancer with Bernadette Rogez, veterinary and phd student studying mammary tumors at OCR in France.

Elderly pets are more likely to have cancer

The frequency of cancers, whatever the kind of tumor, increases with the age of the animal but certain tumors affect particularly young pets. For example, in cats, metastasized thoracic lymphomas are often found in young cats who are around 2 or 3 years old, while digestive tract ones can be found in cats aged 10 - 12 years old.

Family history is one of the predisposing factors for cancer

The predisposing factors for cancer can be hereditary, just like in humans. Hereditary antecedents can be found in the descendants. For example, there are mammary tumors.

In humans, there are 2 defective genes: BRCA1 (70% risk of developing breast cancer before the age of 70) and BRCA2 (50%). This was the case of Angelina Jolie, who, having the BRCA1 gene, underwent a preventative masectomy. In dogs, these genes are also concerned, notably in English Springers.

Some breeds are more or less predisposed

The predisposing factors for cancer relating to breeds are many. The Boxer, whose risk is 4 times higher than other breeds, is more likely to develop a melanoma (skin cancer). As for large dog breeds, the risk of developing an osteosarcoma (bone cancer) is higher due to their very fast growth.

Sterilisation: a protective operation

Hormones have a very large role in the development of mammary tumors. Spayed dogs have a much lower chance of developing cancer. A dog must be sterilised as soon as possible - before her first heat, a pet will be 200 times less likely to have cancer. After the third heat, there is no longer any benefit.

After 2 and a half years, sterilisation will no longer protect against mammary tumors. If you wish your dog to breed, you should be particularly attentive: according to studies, up to 50% of non-sterilised dogs contract a mammary tumor. You can touch your dog's teats to check that there are no small masses. If you detect anything suspicious, ask your veterinary to check that this isn't a developing tumor.

Second-hand smoking

Also affected by second-hand smoking, dogs can develop nasal or sinus cancers. As for cats, they can develop lymphomas and carcinomas in their mouths. Smoking is toxic for anyone in its presence, be they human or animal.

City and country dogs

Pesticides can cause certain cancers, such as bladder cancer for dogs living in the countryside. Studies also show that because of the level of pollution, dogs living in cities may develop other cancers such as Les pesticides ont été mis en cause dans l’apparition de certains cancers, such as that of the orophynx.

The way to reduce the risks is to avoid going outside when there is a spike in pollution. In the same way that you may keep a child at home when there is high pollution, do the same for your dog!

Sun cream is important even for pets

In case of strong sun, take care of white-haired animals as they are more disposed to develop a melanoma. White cats are 13 times more likely to develop this type of cancer. In dogs, this develops in the non-pigmented areas of the coat. This is often the case with Dalmatians, Beagles, Whippets and Bull Terriers. The application of suncream is advised for lighter areas. This means the abdomen, the ears and the muzzle. Be careful, because a dog licking the suncream off limits its efficiency.

A healthy and balanced diet

We know that an unhealthy diet can cause cancer in humans. This is also the case in animals. If their diet is badly adapted to your pet's age or breed, this could increase the likelihood of their developing a cancer.

A pet that is obese at the age of 1 year old has a much higher risk of developing cancer later on in life. The same goes for pets who are fed leftovers that are too rich in fat or red meat.

The solution? In order to eliminate predisposing factors for cancer in your pet, take the same precautions with your pet that you take with yourself! After all, it is better to prevent than to cure!

Bernadette Rogez, with a Msc in veterinary oncology from the University of Lyon, is currently a completing a phd at OCR on mammary tumors in dogs as a model for breast cancer in women.
Information collected by L. Caron-Verschave 

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