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I am not a veterinarian or a nutritionist. If you have questions about diet and canine cancer, please contact your veterinarian. This is a personal blog that explores topics as I learn more about dog nutrition. This blog post was originally published September 2017.
There is an article going around that I believe is misleading: 7 Reasons Why Oprah Feeds Her Dog a Raw Food Diet. Based on the title, I've seen many posts expressing disappointment that Oprah is telling people that raw prevents cancer.
The above image is featured in the article, listing all the benefits of raw feeding, one of which is “Cancer Free; cancer no longer becomes a concern.”
I have two issues with this article:
- This blog post is promoting misinformation; raw feeding doesn't prevent cancer.
- The title leads people to believe that Oprah Winfrey has approved this image and contributed to this article.
Earlier this week, one of my followers contacted me on the worst day of her life. Her raw fed dog (fed raw since she was a puppy) was diagnosed with cancer, and she was faced with making some tough decisions. While I WISH that raw feeding was a cure-all, it's not.
As much as I wish this were different, raw feeding doesn't prevent cancer. And then I saw this article stating the opposite.
7 Reasons Why Raw Feeding Doesn't Prevent Cancer
1 – We're Still Learning
While raw feeders have witnessed the benefits of raw feeding in dogs, we're still learning. Many of us are formulating diets based on information we receive from books, YouTube, and other raw feeders. Many of us don't have access to a certified canine nutritionist or veterinarian who is experienced in formulating a balanced raw diet.
Personally, if you were to ask me for a recipe that is guaranteed to prevent cancer, I'd be at a loss. What about you?
2 – Some Breeds are Predisposed to Cancer
Sadly, some dogs are predisposed to cancer. According to DogCancerBlog.com, “the Golden Retriever is the breed most prone to cancer. It is estimated that up to 75% of Goldens will contract cancer during their lifetimes.” Other breeds mentioned include Boxers, Great Danes, Rottweilers, Scottish and West Highland Terriers, and Shetland Sheepdogs.
I have met people online who are raising these breeds and they're beating the odds because of a raw food diet. And I have referrals for natural rearing breeders who have puppies that are from a long line of raw fed, healthy dogs.
There is hope.
3 – Cancer Needs to be Bred Out of Our Dogs
Cancer and other health issues are in many breed lines, and several breeders have explained that it will take several generations of responsible breeding before historical health issues begin to disappear. If we have a dog that comes from a line that has seen cancer, feeding that dog a raw food diet will give them a better shot at not getting cancer, in my opinion, but there are no guarantees.
If you're looking for reputable, natural rearing breeders, visit the Natural Rearing Directory.
4 – Increased Exposure to Toxins
For decades we've exposed our dogs to vaccinations, flea and tick repellents (spot treatments, collars, oral drugs), and heartworm preventative treatments. Add this to the toxins our dogs are exposed to in and outside our homes – weed killers, exhaust fumes, mosquito repellents, flea bombs, cleaners, air fresheners. Long-term exposure to any of these things can contribute to cancer.
“According to Dr. Larry Glickman and his team at Purdue University, serum and foreign proteins in vaccines can cause autoimmunity (i.e. cancer, leukemia, organ failure, etc.). This research also indicates that genetic damage is possible, since vaccinated dogs developed autoantibodies to attack their own DNA. Research from the University of Geneva echoes this finding.”~ Dogs Naturally Magazine
And the animals we feed to our dogs are also exposed to toxins. What are they fed? Corn? Grass? Are the fields that house these animals sprayed with pesticides? Are the animals injected with antibiotics, steroids, or hormones? Is our source selling quality human-grade meat or are they selling us 3D and 4D meat?
5 – Early Spay and Neuter
With the shockingly high number of homeless pets, we're seeing rescue groups and veterinarians opt for early spay and neuter to prevent unwanted litters. While I completely understand why some rescues have chosen this route, I believe some dogs will face side effects of early spay and neuter.
Above is a Facebook Live that Karen did on this topic in 2017.
6 – We Don't Always Know a Dog's History
For those of us who rescue or make the mistake of buying a puppy from a less than reputable breeder, we may be in the dark about a dog's background and heritage. When we found Scout and Zoey, products of an accidental litter, we were under the impression that they were a mixture of Australian Shepherd, Blue Heeler, and Catahoula. We were stunned by their real breed mix after we had their DNA tested. We thought Rodrigo and Sydney were Blue Heeler Mixes, nope.
We didn't stay in touch with the family or connect with other families that took home puppies (although we tried), so we don't know how the other dogs or the parents are doing health wise. And we don't know the background or health history of Scout and Zoey's parents.
7 – Raw is Just the Beginning
When it comes to keeping our dogs healthy, feeding a biologically appropriate diet is just the beginning. There are a lot of changes I've had to make in how I raise my dogs in order to help them live long, healthy lives.
- Transition to a balanced raw food diet, sourcing for quality brands, farms, and other suppliers
- Swap flea and tick repellents for garlic (yes, it's safe for dogs), essential oils, or natural repellents.
- Find a healthy alternative to heartworm prevention and treatment. Or avoid if living in Washington state.*
- Practice a conservative vaccination protocol and conduct a milk thistle detox to strengthen the liver.
- Find natural alternatives to weed killers, bug repellents, room fresheners, cleansers, and detergents.
And this is a short list.
Learning to Feed a Balanced Raw Diet
I would love it if feeding raw meant that I no longer had to worry about cancer or any other illness. It would be amazing if the answer were that simple.
However, for many of us, it's not that simple.
I agree that raw gives our dogs a better shot of dodging cancer because raw promotes a healthier, stronger immune system. I believe that the pureed and fermented vegetables we feed provide antioxidants and another layer of protection.
I know that the lack of grains and starch (which break down into sugars) in a raw diet is healthier for dogs. I know that the time I take to check and double check my sourcing means that my dogs are being fed a healthier diet and not exposed to toxins that are evident in many bags of kibble. And I believe that a raw fed dog has a better chance of surviving a cancer diagnosis should it land on our doorstep.
I believe that the best thing we can do to give our dogs a better chance of living a longer, healthier life is to…
- continue to learn about canine nutrition,
- do what we can to reduce toxins in our dogs' environment,
- and schedule annual or bi-annual wellness checks with our veterinarian.
I pray that everything I'm doing today will mean that my dogs will be with me 10-15 years from now. My dogs mean the world to me and I know that I'm not alone.
What About the Reader Who's Dog Has Cancer
This one has a happy ending. The cancer didn't spread to the lymph nodes and she's now speaking with her vet about the best treatment options. My reader's dog isn't out of the woods, but things are looking up. I'll be praying for these two because they deserve a happy ending – all of our dogs do.
* There are no reports of dogs in Washington State contracting heartworm. To date, the only cases are in dogs brought in from out of state or that were visiting another state (according to my vet). I keep my eye on possible reports and check in with my vet when the dogs have their blood work done.