When you’re sitting in an exam room, no one word is capable of causing panic and fear more than the word cancer. This is true whether you are sitting in your own physician’s exam room, or whether you’re with your pet at the vet clinic.
As humans, we know that there are things that we can do to try to prevent some types of cancer. As it happens, there are some things we can do to decrease the odds of cancer in our four-legged family members, too!
Read on for the top five ways to reduce your pet’s cancer risk.
Have your pet spayed or neutered.
Besides benefiting the entire pet population by reducing the number of unwanted pets, spaying and neutering your pets will reduce their risk of cancer. Breast cancer (malignant mammary tumors) is more common in unspayed female dogs; spaying your dog before her first heat cycle reduces her chance of breast cancer to almost zero.
The same rule applies for your female cat. Mammary tumors in cats are malignant about 85% of the time, and they are typically aggressive in nature. Spaying your cat before her first heat cycle will reduce her chances of developing malignant mammary tumors to almost zero, just like her canine sister.
Male dogs and cats cannot develop testicular cancer if they have no testicles. It’s as simple as that!
Manage your pet’s weight.
Cancer is more common in obese pets. Give your young dog or cat a head start by feeding an appropriate amount of a healthy diet from day one. Preventing obesity is so much easier than fixing it.
If the years have added more pounds to your pet than you intended, now’s the time to get headed in the direction of weight loss. Talk to your vet about starting a diet and exercise plan that will help your pet shed excess weight safely, thereby reducing his or her cancer risk.
Clean up the environment.
Environmental toxins are as bad for our pets as they are for us. Make a clean living space for your pet and limit their exposure to carcinogens. Pets who live in homes with smokers have higher incidences of lung and nasal tumors, so if you smoke, go outside to do so. Better yet, quit! If not for yourself, then do it for your family members (both furry and non-furry!). Limit the exposure your pets have to chemicals, too. This includes chemical pesticides and fertilizers—two common springtime products that are also carcinogens.
Focus on food.
The role of nutrition’s link to cancer is an important one. Human studies have linked not only obesity to increased cancer risk, but also the increased consumption of foods high in sugar and low in nutrients, and a decreased consumption of fiber and healthy fats like omega 3 fatty acids. The same holds true for our pets, so take a look at what you are feeding your pets and ask yourself if your pet’s diet has some room for improvement. In addition to feeding a high quality food, you want to choose a diet that has omega 3 fatty acids and plenty of healthy, cancer preventing antioxidants.
Your pet depends on you to keep him healthy, and you can depend on your veterinarian for recommendations to help you do just that. Yearly veterinary exams (or twice yearly for older pets) are key to staying on top of your pet’s health.