For any dog parent, the thought of their furry best friend being diagnosed with cancer is a nightmare. Unfortunately, it’s a common reality for many dog owners, with almost half of senior dogs developing some form of dog cancer.
However, a dog cancer diagnosis doesn’t mean there is no hope. Understanding the disease, recognizing the warning signs, and supporting the rest of your pet’s body during this challenging time can make a world of difference.
Dog Cancer: An Overview
In dogs, cancer occurs when normal, healthy cells begin to grow out of control, forming malignant tumors. Just like in humans, these cancerous cells can spread from their initial location to other parts of the body, a process known as metastasis, impacting vital organs and bodily systems.
Cancer can affect any dog, regardless of breed or age. However, some breeds, including Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, and Chow Chows, are at higher risk. Younger dogs are less likely to develop cancer than older dogs. The most common types of cancer in dogs include mast cell tumors, lymphoma, and breast (mammary) cancer. Other common cancers include bladder cancer, brain tumors, and skin cancers.
Signs and Symptoms of Cancer in Dogs
Cancer in dogs can present itself in various ways. You may notice symptoms. Some symptoms may include noticeable lumps (tumors), abnormal bleeding, decreased appetite, or sudden weight loss. Certain cancers, such as lymphoma, commonly affect the lymph nodes (leading to swollen lymph nodes), and you or your vet may find this just by giving some good rubs and pets, or in an exam. Other cancers, like mast cell tumors, a common form of skin cancer, can release substances into the dog’s bloodstream that cause harm to other parts of the body.
The warning signs of cancer can be subtle and easily mistaken for common ailments or signs of aging. That’s why regular checkups are so important, especially for senior dogs. A consult with a veterinary oncologist may also be particularly important or older dogs and breeds predisposed to cancer.
Dog Cancer: The Diagnostic Journey
A suspected diagnosis of cancer in your dog usually begins with a comprehensive physical exam conducted by a veterinarian or a veterinary oncologist. They may take a sample of cells from a lump or swollen lymph nodes via a fine needle aspirate to examine under a microscope. Blood tests and other diagnostic tools like X-rays may be performed for an accurate diagnosis and to assess the extent of the cancer.
A thorough diagnosis is critical in coming up with an appropriate treatment plan for your best friend. Treatment options for cancer in dogs can range from surgery to remove tumors to radiation and chemotherapy, usually overseen by radiation oncologists. Each dog is different, though, and each cancer journey for dogs will be different too.
Holistic Support: Beyond Treating Cancer In Dogs
Cancer treatment focuses on eliminating malignant cells. However, it’s crucial to remember that your dog’s body needs support too. Among the bodily systems, the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and more specifically, gut health, play a pivotal role in overall well-being and in supporting your dog’s body during cancer treatment. The treatment can be hard, but you can do some holistic things at home that can make a difference.
1. Balanced Diet:
Provide a balanced diet rich in high-quality proteins, fibers, and fats. Lean meats, fish, fruits, and vegetables are excellent. Probiotic-rich foods like yogurt can also help maintain a healthy gut, and you can read more about why that’s so vital below.
Water is important for digestion and elimination of toxins. Ensure your dog stays well-hydrated, especially if it has vomiting or diarrhea symptoms due to the disease or to the treatment.
3. Regular Exercise:
Regular, gentle exercise can support overall wellbeing, including gut health. Exercise stimulates a healthy appetite and aids digestion which can help your dog have optimal nutrient absorption.
4. Mental Stimulation:
Engaging your dog in mentally stimulating activities can reduce stress, indirectly benefiting gut health.
Supplements such as Turmeric, Milk Thistle, Mushrooms and Omega-3 fatty acids are among some supplements that can support overall health. We always advise you consult your vet before starting any those new supplements.
Why is Gut Health Important?
The GI tract isn’t just a system for digestion. It’s home to billions of bacteria that form the gut microbiota. These bacteria are vital for a plethora of functions, including digestion, nutrient absorption, and vitamin production. Perhaps their most important role, however, is their influence on the immune system.
Nearly 70-80% of the body’s immune cells reside in the gut. The gut microbiota communicates with these immune cells, teaching them to differentiate between friend and foe, and enables an appropriate immune response. This intricate dance between the gut and the immune system is key to maintaining health.
For a dog battling cancer, this gut-immunity axis may become critical. Cancer, alongside the side effects of treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, can disrupt their gut microbiota, leading to dysbiosis—an imbalance of good and bad bacteria. Dysbiosis can dampen the immune response, making it harder for your pet to fight the disease and recover from treatments. Thus, supporting gut health may provide your pet with a significant advantage in their cancer battle.
Bernie’s Perfect Poop: The Role of Supplements in Supporting Gut Health
One of the biggest reasons we created Bernie’s Perfect Poop was because we know the role of good gut health when it comes to overall wellness and longevity. We use a unique blend of high-quality fiber, prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes designed to enhance your dog’s gut health and, by extension, their overall health.
- High-quality fiber blend: This formulation includes a mix of miscanthus grass, pumpkin, and flaxseed, which provide both soluble and insoluble fiber. Dietary fiber is a powerhouse nutrient that serves as a food source for gut bacteria, promoting their growth and diversity. It also aids digestion and helps maintain regular bowel movements, crucial for the elimination of toxins from the body. Miscanthus grass is a clean, eco-friendly fiber that more and more is becoming a go-to for overall health and wellness benefits.
- Prebiotics and probiotics: Prebiotics are non-digestible food components that fuel the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Probiotics, on the other hand, are live beneficial bacteria. Together, they help maintain a balanced and diverse gut microbiota, crucial for a robust immune response, especially in dogs undergoing cancer treatment.
- Enzymes: Digestive enzymes play a key role in breaking down food into smaller, absorbable components. This ensures your dog gets all the nutrients from their food, vital for maintaining strength and vitality during cancer treatment.
Bernie’s Perfect Poop helps promote a healthy gut, which bolsters the immune system, aiding your dog in combating cancer more effectively. It can also help manage some of the common side effects of cancer treatments, such as nausea and poor appetite, thereby improving your pet’s quality of life during this challenging period. The better they feel, the better they can fight against cancer.
Cancer in dogs can be a daunting diagnosis for any dog parent, but it is manageable to treat cancer with knowledge and the right support. By understanding the disease, spotting the warning signs early, and supporting your dog’s overall health—with a primary focus on gut health—you can help your furry friend maintain a good quality of life during this challenging time. Always remember that early detection and treatment offer the best prognosis, so don’t hesitate to reach out to your vet if you notice any changes in your pet’s behavior or health.