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10 Expert Tips: How to prevent cancer in dogs and cats

10 Expert Tips: How to prevent cancer in dogs and cats

What are some ways to prevent cancer in dogs and cats?

Help prevent cancer, the #1 cause of death in dogs and cats, by feeding a minimally processed diet with fresh foods and antioxidants, maintaining a healthy weight for your pet, providing regular exercise, limiting exposure to environmental toxins and UV radiation, and being proactive about routine veterinary check-ups to detect any potential issues early on.


Key Highlights

  • Cancer is the leading cause of death in both dogs and cats.
  • Understanding the role of inflammation and processed foods on the development of cancer
  • Understanding the role of genetics in cancer susceptibility for dogs
  • Neutering and its effect on cancer rates
  • Impact of environmental factors such as carcinogens and pesticides on cancer development
  • Exercise as a protective factor against cancer by maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exploring the role of supplements in cancer prevention
  • Early detection and screening

Introduction: How to Prevent Cancer in Dogs and Cats

Cancer isn’t one event; it’s a complex interplay of factors affecting a pet's health. From genetic predispositions to environmental exposures, every aspect contributes to the risk of developing cancer.

Understanding this multifaceted nature is crucial for prevention strategies. It is important to understand your dog’s breed and any associated health risks. By researching and familiarizing yourself with potential health issues, you can take proactive steps to decrease risk factors and maintain a healthy immune system.


1. Understanding the Role of Genetics in Cancer Susceptibility and Early Detection

Genetics plays a significant role in determining cancer susceptibility in dogs, with certain breeds being genetically predisposed to specific types of cancer. Recognizing the genetic factors that contribute to cancer risk is essential for early detection and implementation of prevention strategies. A cough and fever in a 5-year-old Bernese Mountain dog would lead to a more aggressive exploration of the cause than many other breeds.


Does a Dog's breed increase its susceptibility to cancer? What about cats?

The following breeds are more likely to be associated with increased cancer risk:

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Boxers
  • Rottweilers
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs
  • German Shepherd

Cat breeds do not stand out as much as dog breeds. I would attribute this to "hybrid vigor" or the more diverse gene pool. Siamese seem to be prone to many of the feline cancers. Persian, Birman, Burmese, Ragdoll, and Russian blue as well, but less so than Siamese.


2. The Impact of Early Neutering on Cancer Risk

Early neutering in dogs has been a topic of discussion due to its potential impact on cancer risk. Studies indicate a possible link between early neutering and an increased likelihood of certain cancers, including osteosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma. When I graduated from veterinary school many moons ago, the impetus was to do early spay and neuter not only to prevent pet overpopulation but to decrease the incidence of mammary cancer. Since then, the evidence that this is an effective method to prevent mammary cancer has been proven to be only a slight decrease in mammary cancer (1). We have also since found a dramatic increase in orthopedic diseases such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and ruptured cruciate ligament risk when dogs are neutered early. Cats are also prone to hip arthritis when neutered early, especially if they are overweight.

Recent studies have shed light on the nuanced effects of these procedures, particularly in breeds like Rottweilers and Golden Retrievers. For instance, research published in PLOS ONE reveals a stark 2-fold increase in the incidence of osteosarcoma (OSA) in neutered dogs compared to their intact counterparts, highlighting a breed-specific vulnerability in Rottweilers and Golden Retrievers (2).

The risk of hemangiosarcoma, a severe form of cancer, has been shown to be significantly elevated in spayed or neutered dogs, with certain studies indicating a 3-4 times higher likelihood in Rottweilers. Moreover, a 2013 study performed by veterinarians at the University of California, Davis discovered that neutered Golden Retrievers were at a higher risk of three types of cancer—lymphoma, mast cell tumors, and hemangiosarcoma—than their non-neutered counterparts. The practice of spaying before the first estrus cycle has been associated with a near eradication of mammary cancer, but this consideration would not be as valid in Golden Retrievers or Rottweilers, leading many to wait until 2 years of age to spay or neuter in these breeds. It is essential for dog owners to have a dialogue with their veterinarian to determine the appropriate timing for neutering their pets.


3. Environmental Factors: toxins, lawn care chemicals, and

Avoiding the following in your pet's environment can help decrease their risk of cancer

  • Excess exposure to UV light: limit exposure during peak sunlight hours, do not let your pet sunbathe
  • Lawn pesticides and herbicides: opt for organic lawn care products, as applying them to your lawn increases lymphoma risk greatly
  • Insecticides
  • Secondhand smoke
  • Food dyes and additives
  • Endocrine disrupters
  • Asbestos
  • What about flea and tick products? I could find no studies showing an increased risk of cancer and two studies showing that they did not carry an increased risk. Fipronil (the agent in Frontline) is classified as a possible carcinogen by the EPA. They have been shown to have neurological side effects in some pets, though. So weigh the risks and benefits when it comes to tick-transmitted diseases and flea misery when using these products (3)(4).


4. Diet and Nutrition: More Than Just Fresh Vegetables

Kibble, a staple in the diets of many pets, is highly processed and has been identified as a significant source of Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs). These compounds arise during the manufacturing process, particularly through the Maillard reaction, which occurs when proteins and fats react with sugars at high temperatures used in kibble production. This process is exacerbated in kibble due to its dry nature and the high-heat methods required to ensure its long shelf life, leading to a concentration of AGEs much higher than that found in fresh, minimally processed pet foods.

High levels of AGEs in kibble can contribute to a range of chronic health issues in pets, including cancer, diabetes, obesity, allergies, and cardiovascular diseases. These conditions are believed to result from the pro-inflammatory and oxidative stress-inducing effects of AGEs on the body's tissues and systems. In contrast, fresh diets, being less processed and often prepared at lower temperatures, contain significantly lower levels of these harmful compounds, offering a healthier alternative for pet nutrition

Cruciferous vegetables offer vital cancer-fighting properties in preventing transitional cell cancer (TCC) in dogs. These veggies, such as broccoli and kale, contain compounds that assist in neutralizing carcinogens and reducing inflammation. By incorporating cruciferous vegetables into your dog's diet, you can potentially lower the risk of TCC development. Always consult with your veterinarian before making significant dietary changes to ensure they align with your dog's specific health needs. Opting for these nutrient-rich vegetables can play a pivotal role in supporting your furry friend's overall well-being and resilience against TCC-related risks.

Excessive or low-quality carbohydrates can lead to health issues, including obesity and inflammation, which are risk factors for certain cancers. A veterinarian can provide guidance on the appropriate carbohydrate levels based on your dog's breed, age, and health status.

Ensure your pets have constant access to clean, fresh water. Hydration is key to overall health and can aid in preventing various health issues, including certain cancers. Opt for stainless steel or ceramic bowls instead of plastic ones, as they are easier to clean and less likely to harbor harmful bacteria.


5. Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh vegetables can help your dog maintain a healthy weight, which is crucial for preventing various types of cancer and other health issues.

Overweight dogs are at an increased risk of cancer and other chronic conditions, making proper nutrition and portion control essential. By prioritizing a diet rich in fresh vegetables alongside high-quality proteins and fats, you can provide your canine companion with the nutrients they need to thrive and potentially reduce their risk of developing cancer.


6. Exercise: A Protective Factor Against Cancer and Dementia

Regular exercise is important for maintaining a dog’s overall health. Not only does it help keep them at a healthy weight, but it also plays a significant role in preventing cancer. Physical activity boosts the immune system, reducing the risk of certain cancers like mammary cancer and malignant lymphoma. Additionally, exercise promotes weight loss, lowers inflammation, and improves cognitive function. Engaging your furry friend in regular physical activity not only strengthens the bond between you two but also contributes significantly to their longevity and well-being. Thirty minutes of walking twice daily is a good goal.

In addition to the physical benefits, regular exercise is essential for a dog's mental well-being. Exercise provides mental stimulation, which is crucial for preventing the onset of "Doggie Alzheimer's Disease" or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. It can also help reduce anxiety and stress in dogs, promoting better overall emotional health.


7. Intermittent Fasting in Humans and Pets

During fasting between meals, the body cleans up inflammation, repairs tissues, and eliminates abnormal cells. Apoptosis, the process of normal cell death, plays a role in maintaining a healthy body. This natural mechanism eliminates damaged cells, thus preventing the growth of cancerous cells. By promoting apoptosis through a balanced diet, regular exercise, and a healthy lifestyle, pet owners can support their furry companions in maintaining optimal cellular health.

The Dog Aging Project, a pioneering research initiative, has shed light on the benefits of once-daily feedings for canine health. This feeding strategy is thought to promote a healthier metabolic state in dogs by mimicking the natural fasting and feeding cycle, potentially leading to improved longevity and reduced incidence of diseases. By limiting food intake to once a day, dogs may experience lower levels of inflammation, improved insulin sensitivity, and enhanced autophagy – the body's natural process of cleaning out damaged cells to make way for healthier ones. These physiological changes can contribute to a decrease in the risk of chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and certain cancers, ultimately supporting a longer, healthier life for dogs. The Dog Aging Project's exploration into once-daily feedings underscores the profound impact that dietary practices can have on canine health, offering valuable insights for pet owners aiming to optimize their pets' well-being (5).


8. What about early detection and preventive care?

Regular veterinary examinations are essential in detecting any potential health issues early on. Being vigilant for any unusual symptoms or changes in behavior can aid in prompt diagnosis and treatment. The Merck Veterinary Manual recommends incorporating regular checkups into your pet's healthcare routine to catch any potential health issues early on.

There are many cancers that can be detected early with a good physical exam. This would lead to a better outcome and potentially a cure with earlier intervention.


9. Are There Specific Foods and Supplements to Add to My Pet's Diet for Cancer Prevention?

  • Golden Paste (turmeric and coconut oil): Turmeric, a powerful spice with anti-inflammatory properties, has shown promise in preventing and treating various diseases, including cancer, in dogs and cats. Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, can help inhibit the growth of cancer cells and reduce inflammation in pets. Adding a small amount of turmeric to your pet's diet can potentially boost their immune system and contribute to their overall well-being. Consult with your veterinarian on the appropriate dosage and best way to incorporate turmeric into your furry companion's meals for optimal health benefits.

  • Blueberries
  • Omega-3 fatty acids/fish oil: Fish oil is a beneficial supplement for dogs, especially when aiming to prevent cancer. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil possess anti-inflammatory properties that can aid in maintaining the overall health of your canine companion. Incorporating fish oil into your dog's diet can potentially reduce inflammation and support their immune system. When considering preventive measures against canine cancer, adding fish oil to your pet's nutrition plan is a wise choice recommended by veterinarians. It can contribute to their well-being and potentially lower the risk of certain types of cancer.


10. Omega 6: Omega 3 Ration: The "Pet-iterranean Diet"

The Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acid ratio is a critical aspect of dietary intake that significantly impacts inflammation and overall health. In the modern diet, particularly in processed foods like kibble for pets, this ratio is skewed heavily towards Omega-6 fatty acids. Studies suggest that an optimal Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio should range from 1:1 to 2:1 to maintain health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases associated with inflammation (OCL Journal, 2010). However, in many commercial pet foods, especially kibble, the ratio can be significantly higher, sometimes exceeding 10:1 or even 20:1, favoring Omega-6 fatty acids. This disparity is due to the high content of plant-based ingredients rich in Omega-6, such as corn, soy, and sunflower oil, commonly used in kibble production.

In contrast, fresh diets for pets often present a more balanced Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio, closer to the optimal range. The imbalance seen in many kibble formulations can contribute to a pro-inflammatory state, increasing oxidative stress, free fatty acids, and triglycerides, thereby elevating the risk of chronic inflammatory conditions (ScienceDirect, 2024). Thus, choosing diets with a more balanced Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio is crucial for maintaining the health and well-being of pets, underscoring the importance of careful dietary selection in promoting a long, vibrant life for our furry companions.



In conclusion, ensuring the well-being of your canine companion involves a multi-faceted approach. From understanding the genetic predispositions and environmental factors that contribute to cancer risk to providing a nutritious diet rich in fresh vegetables and engaging in regular exercise, you play a pivotal role in safeguarding your dog's health. Awareness of potential carcinogens like secondhand smoke and asbestos exposure is crucial. Consulting with your veterinarian to weigh the benefits of spaying/neutering for specific breeds is key. By implementing these expert strategies, you contribute significantly to your dog's overall health and longevity.


Are there any supplements proven to help in cancer prevention?

Certain supplements, such as fish oil, turmeric, and coconut oil, have demonstrated potential in cancer prevention for dogs and cats. These supplements can be beneficial additions to their diets, potentially reducing the risk of cancer development. Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which possess anti-inflammatory properties and may help inhibit tumor growth. Turmeric contains curcumin, a powerful antioxidant known for its anti-cancer properties and ability to reduce inflammation. Coconut oil is a source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which have been studied for their potential anti-cancer effects and ability to support overall health in pets. When considering incorporating supplements into your pet's diet, it is important to consult with a veterinarian to ensure the supplements are appropriate and safe for your furry companions.



(1).Beauvais W, Cardwell JM, Brodbelt DC (2012) The effect of neutering on the risk of mammary tumours in dogs – a systematic review. J Small Anim Pract 53: 314–322.

(2)Hart, B. L., Hart, L. A., Thigpen, A. P., & Willits, N. H. (2014). Long-Term Health Effects of Neutering Dogs: Comparison of Labrador Retrievers with Golden Retrievers. PLOS ONE, 9(7), e102241.

(3)Household chemical exposures and the risk of canine malignant lymphoma, a model for human non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Environ Res. January 2012;112(0):171-6.

(4)Bioaccumulation of pesticide contaminants in tissue matrices of dogs suffering from malignant canine mammary tumors in Punjab, India.

Heliyon. October 2020;6(10):e05274.

(5)Bray EE, Zheng Z, Tolbert MK, McCoy BM; Dog Aging Project Consortium; Kaeberlein M, Kerr KF. Once-daily feeding is associated with better health in companion dogs: results from the Dog Aging Project. Geroscience. 2022 Jun;44(3):1779-1790. doi: 10.1007/s11357-022-00575-7. Epub 2022 Apr 28. PMID: 35484470; PMCID: PMC9213604.


Hi! I'm Dr, Dody, DVM.

Passionate about animal welfare, I dedicated my life to helping animals from a young age. After years of traditional medicine, I discovered a lack of dietary options for optimal health. Combining my experience in both traditional and holistic care, I created Holistic Vet Blend® to empower consumers in choosing healthy ingredients and provide essential nutrients. As a seasoned veterinarian and thought leader, I advocate for a personalized approach to improve pets' lives. We support you in curating your pet's bowl, monitoring their progress, and offering the latest recommendations as their needs change.

Together, let's redefine pet care with love and attention.