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I am not a veterinarian or a nutritionist. If you are concerned that your dog may have cancer, please don't doubt yourself. Contact your veterinarian immediately for help. Some dogs are asystematic, meaning that they show no symptoms of cancer.
One of the many benefits of feeding my dogs a raw diet is that I feel that I'm protecting my dogs against a cancer diagnosis. I know that raw feeding doesn't prevent cancer, however, I do believe that raw feeding gives our dogs a better shot of avoiding a diagnosis or surviving a diagnosis.
While I try not to focus on the possibility of our dogs developing cancer, losing a pet (our 2′ Koi Goldie) this week reminded me that there will come a day when I have to say “goodbye” and I want that day to be far in the future.
What is Dog Cancer?
Someone recently told me that we all have cancerous cells living in our body, they're just not turned on. Yet! How we eat, how much we move, and what we allow into our environment will raise or lower the chance of developing cancer.
But what exactly is cancer?
As I understand it, cancer is when the abnormal cells in our body start reproducing like crazy. What sucks is that Westerners have a diet high in sugar and other carbs that act as a buffet for these abnormal cells. Our lifestyle is creating the perfect environment for cancer to grow and thrive. And the same can be said for our dogs.
Improve Your Dog's Diet and Lifestyle
While raw feeding doesn't prevent cancer, it does increase our dogs' odds of NOT getting that heartbreaking diagnosis. So I kicked the kibble – aka Cancer's Buffet – and switched my dogs to a raw food diet. Raw dog food promotes a healthier, stronger immune system. Adding pureed and fermented vegetables to our dogs' diet is giving them much-needed anti-oxidants, which occur naturally in plant-based foods and work to prevent cell damage (they prevent the abnormal cells that reproduce like crazy and cause cancer).
But diet isn't the only thing we need to change.
I thought I was ahead of the game by choosing to be conservative about vaccinations. Our dogs were vaccinated as puppies and they received their one-year boosters. Plus I use natural shampoo and flea and tick repellents. Applause!!! And we don't use chemicals on our lawn. I'm winning the Dog Mom game!!!
After watching The Dog Cancer Series, I learned that there are more changes I can make to our lifestyle that will benefit our dogs. The biggest change has been to switch to natural cleaning products. There was a lot of pushback from both of us because we didn't think vinegar could clean as well as bleach – it does. I've also stopped buying air fresheners and plugins and I've opted for diffusing essential oils.
But that's not all!
When you watch The Dog Cancer Series, you'll walk away with a better understanding of the importance of a dog's diet and a game plan to start raising your dog naturally.
The Dog Cancer Series will be available Thursday, March 15, 2018.
10 Warning Signs that Our Dog May Have Cancer
While I'm doing my best to keep our dogs healthy and happy, I know that it's important that I watch my dogs for signs of illness. If I can catch it early, my dogs will have a better chance of surviving and bouncing back. The following are 10 early warning signs that may be a sign of dog cancer.
1 – Lumps and Bumps
While not all lumps are cancerous, they should be checked out. We play with, cuddle with, and groom our dogs daily. Each session is an opportunity to better understand what's normal and what's new. When we notice a change, it's time for a family meeting to compare notes and a call to the vet if we're concerned. Better safe than sorry.
2 – Wounds that Won't Heal
A couple of years ago, Sydney had a hotspot that took forever to heal and I was concerned because wounds that won't heal can be an early sign of canine cancer. Thankfully, her tail recovered and she hasn't had a hotspot since. However, I paid close attention to the stop, taking pictures to track its progress while it healed. Better safe than sorry.
3 – Rapid Weight Loss or Weight Gain
Whenever someone in my group shares that their dog is losing weight no matter how much they feed them, I want to scream “CALL THE VET!!!” In fact, I do scream this at my computer. Rapid weight loss is another early warning sign of dog cancer, but I didn't know about weight gain. Bloat is also a sign. If your dog is losing or gaining weight and you can't turn it around or find a source, contact your vet immediately.
4 – Loss of Appetite
This is a tough one because I think many of us have a dog that self-fasts. When I look at this sign, I'm reminded that I'm an expert in my dogs and I can tell the difference between loss of appetite and “mom, I'm not feeling breakfast right now, can I have bone broth instead?” I also bet that the loss of appetite partners with another sign that would tell us to call our veterinarian.
5 – Low Energy, Lethargy
Scout is NOT a morning dog and he stays in his sleeping spot until I have his food dish in hand. This has been the same nearly every day of his life; only one stands out as different. One morning, Scout wouldn't get up. He stayed in a ball with his head down. It was obvious that he wasn't feeling well. I felt his ears and they were HOT! I took his temperature and it was 105 degrees! We rushed him to the emergency vet.
I worried that it might be cancer and tests showed that it wasn't cancer. Ultimately they couldn't find a cause and he was diagnosed with a fever of unknown origin. He survived. This day was a reminder to always listen to our dogs.
6 – Difficulty Breathing or Swallowing
Does snoring count? Please tell me that I'm not the only one who wondered. If your dog is having trouble breathing or swallowing, this requires an emergency trip to the vet. While this makes it on a list of Signs of Dog Cancer, it's also a sign of an obstruction and shouldn't be taken lightly.
7 – Abnormal Discharge or Bleeding
I met a woman who lost a dog to a form of nasal cancer. Her dog was sneezing all the time and she paid attention when blood came out. Sadly, she lost her dog and the story still breaks my heart. And as a result, I pay attention to anything that comes out of my dogs' noses and, yes, I'm going to say it, my at home check-ups include the dogs' junk down there. Don't judge me.
8 – Lameness or Stiffness
This one could also be an injury or arthritis, which is why it's so important to know your dog and have a great relationship with your vet. Sydney has a history of joint issues and she's on a strong joint supplement and Canine System Saver. There was a time when she went lame and could barely use her back legs; that was also when I stopped giving her Canine System Saver and she wasn't on a dedicated joint supplement. Today, she's active and happy. Thanks to the experience of her not being able to walk, I pay attention to her progress just in case.
9 – Check the Poop
I'm the poop-ologist in our home and know each dog's poop by sight. When their poop isn't solid, I can quickly tie it back to a change in their diet. Once, Rodrigo's poop was grey; it cleared up in less than a day, which his nutritionist predicted. And there was a time when he had diarrhea for two weeks. That was when his veterinarian helped me figure out the proteins he can't eat. The point is that we need to pay attention to our dogs' poop – and contact the vet if anything unusual is happening like ongoing diarrhea or black and tarry poop.
10 – Strong, Persistent Odor
Tumors, open sores, and bacteria can lead to strong persistent odor. I always contact my dogs' vet to discuss strong odors from my dogs. This has only been a problem twice and the dogs are fine. Now that I understand that strong odors can be an early sign of cancer, I'm glad that we have a great vet.
Be Your Dog's Advocate
You may have noticed that there is zero medical advice in this post. I chose not to dive deep into these signs of canine cancer because I think this is a discussion that we should have with our veterinarian. Too often I see people posting questions on blogs or on social media and those questions are better taken to a veterinarian. I understand the fear of a possible cancer diagnosis and the desire for comfort and assurance. However, we shouldn't waste any time getting help from a professional.
Regular Check-Ups Are Important
I want to thank my friend, Tina B, for reminding me that some dogs may be asystematic, which means they don't show any signs or symptoms of canine cancer. Annual or bi-annual veterinarian check-ups are important because our veterinarian will know what to look for, they know our dog's history, and they can help us act quickly.
If you worry that your dog has cancer, please contact your veterinarian. To learn more about canine cancer, be sure to check out The Dog Cancer Series, which will be available Thursday, March 15, 2018.
And return tomorrow to learn tips on how we can improve our home for our dogs.