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Cancer and Your Pet: Two Things to Avoid

August 01, 2012 | 54,427 views
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By Dr. Becker

I recently ran across an article about the link between nutrition and cancer in dogs and cats. According to PetfoodIndustry.com:

"Despite significant advancements in companion animal cancer treatment over the last decade, the relationships between nutrition and veterinary cancer control and prevention remain in their infancy. Developing dietary strategies for reducing companion animal cancer incidence and mortality—overall and for specific cancers—will be an exciting and challenging endeavor that will take extensive research coordination using evidence-based designs."

Since this article -- though written by a professor at the Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University – was published in a trade journal for the pet food industry, I think we can assume there will be pet food companies heavily involved in developing dietary strategies to address the growing problem of cancer in pets.

And I doubt very seriously those pet food manufacturers will develop strategies that encourage pet owners to feed real, whole, fresh food and not the processed stuff they sell.

Expect to see "cancer prevention" processed pet diets coming soon to a store and/or veterinary office near you. It's just a matter of time.

Obesity Increases Cancer Risk

The PetfoodIndustry.com article also points out that, "Caloric restriction has demonstrated the most consistent delay in the progression and prevention of tumor development across species."

Fewer calories, it has been shown, cause the cells of the body to block tumor growth.

Too many calories, on the other hand, lead to obesity – and obesity is strongly linked to increased cancer risk in humans. There is a connection between too much glucose, increased insulin sensitivity, inflammation and oxidative stress – all factors in obesity – and cancer. And while there's been no direct link made yet to obesity and cancer in dogs and cats, it is assumed a link exists.

So in addition to the clearly established connections between obesity and other health problems like diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, kidney disease, reduced quality of life and shortened lifespan, there is also increased risk that an overweight pet will develop cancer.

And what is the biggest health problem for pets today? Overweight and obesity. Certainly the increase in cancer rates among dogs and cats is in part attributable to the obesity epidemic.

Overfeeding your pet is not a loving thing to do. Food is no substitute for quality time spent with your dog or cat. And keep in mind that fat doesn't just sit on your pet's body harmlessly. It produces inflammation that can promote tumor development.

In order to be the best guardian you can be for your pet, you must insure she stays at a healthy weight. Parents of too-heavy and obese pets need to understand the tremendous harm they are doing to their companion animal's health and quality of life … before it's too late.

Inflammation Leads to Cancer

Anything that creates or promotes inflammation in the body increases the risk for serious diseases, including cancer.

Recent research points to cancer as a chronic inflammatory disease. Inflammation kills the cells of the body. It also surrounds cells with toxic inflammatory by-products that inhibit the flow of oxygen, nutrients and waste products between cells and blood. This creates an environment in which abnormal cells proliferate.

Preventing inflammation is crucial to the prevention of cancer.

One major contributor to inflammatory conditions is a diet too high in omega-6 fatty acids and too low in omega-3s. Omega-6s increase inflammation, cell proliferation and blood clotting, while the omega-3s do the reverse.

Unfortunately, the typical processed western diet – for both humans and their pets – is loaded down with omega-6 fatty acids and deficient in omega-3s.

Nutrition for Cancer Prevention

The best diet for cancer prevention is a diet that provides the nutritional components required to maintain healthy cells and repair unhealthy ones.

Cancer cells need the glucose in carbohydrates to grow and proliferate. If you limit or eliminate that energy source, you do the same with the cancer's growth. That's one of the reasons I always discourage feeding diets high in carbohydrates. Carbs are pro-inflammatory nutrients that also feed cancer cells.

Carbs you want to keep out of your pet's diet include processed grains, fruits with fructose, and starchy veggies like potatoes. All dry pet food contains some form of starch (it's not possible to create kibble without it), which is one of the reasons I'm not a fan of dry pet food.

Cancer cells generally can't use dietary fats for energy, so appropriate amounts of good quality fats are nutritionally healthy for dogs and cats.

A healthy, species-appropriate diet for dogs and cats – one that is anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer – consists of real, whole foods, preferably served raw. It looks something like this:

High in high-quality protein, including muscle meat, organs and bone (protein should make up 75 percent of a healthy dog's diet, and 88 percent of a cat's diet) A few beneficial additions like probiotics, digestive enzymes and super green foods
Moderate levels of animal fat A vitamin/mineral supplement
High levels of EPA and DHA (omega-3 fatty acids) High moisture content
A few fresh cut veggies and a bit of fruit, pureed No grains; no starches

Immune System Support for Cancer Prevention

The health of your pet's immune system is vital to her ability to defend against disease. Balanced, species-appropriate nutrition is the foundation for a healthy immune system. You can also help keep your dog's or cat's immune system balanced and resilient by:

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