May is Pet Cancer Awareness month (opinion)
Tribune Opinion Columnist
The last word you want to hear from your veterinarian is cancer.
As humans, we know that there are things that we can do to try to prevent some types of cancer. But there are also some things we can do to decrease the chances of our pets getting cancer.
FIVE WAYS TO REDUCE YOUR PET’S CANCER RISK
Have your pet spayed or neutered
Besides benefiting the entire pet population by reducing the number of unwanted pets, spaying and neutering your pets will reduce their risk of cancer. Breast cancer (malignant mammary tumors) is more common in unspayed female dogs. Spaying your dog before her first heat cycle reduces her chance of breast cancer to almost zero.
The same rule applies for your female cat. Mammary tumors in cats are malignant about 85 percent of the time, and typically aggressive in nature. Spaying your cat before her first heat cycle will reduce her chances of developing malignant mammary tumors to almost zero, just like her canine sister.
Male dogs and cats cannot develop testicular cancer if they have no testicles. It’s as simple as that.
Manage your pet’s weight
Cancer is more common in obese pets. Give your young dog or cat a head start by feeding an appropriate amount of a healthy diet from day one. Preventing obesity is so much easier than fixing it.
If the years have added more pounds to your pet than you intended, now’s the time to get headed in the direction of weight loss. Talk to your vet about starting a diet and exercise plan that will help your pet shed excess weight safely, thereby reducing his or her cancer risk.
Clean up the environment
Environmental toxins are as bad for our pets as they are for us. Make a clean living space for your pet and limit their exposure to carcinogens. Pets who live in homes with smokers have higher incidences of lung and nasal tumors, so if you smoke, go outside to do so. Better yet, quit! If not for yourself, then do it for your family members (both furry and non-furry). Limit the exposure your pets have to chemicals, too. This includes chemical pesticides and fertilizers — two common springtime products that are also carcinogens.
Focus on food
The role of nutrition’s link to cancer is an important one. Human studies have linked not only obesity to increased cancer risk, but also the increased consumption of foods high in sugar and low in nutrients, and a decreased consumption of fiber and healthy fats. The same holds true for our pets, so take a look at what you are feeding your pets and ask yourself if your pet’s diet has some room for improvement. In addition to feeding a high-quality food, you want to choose a diet that has omega-3 fatty acids and plenty of healthy, cancer-preventing antioxidants.
Your pet depends on you to keep him healthy, and you can depend on your veterinarian for recommendations to help you do just that. Yearly veterinary exams (or twice yearly for older pets) are key to staying on top of your pet’s health.
It’s time again to submit your furry family member’s photos to Lake Tahoe Humane Society’s calendar/card photo contest. Just go to http://www.laketahoehumanesociety.org and click on the calendar link, scroll to bottom of the page, fill out form and submit your image. It a fun way to support our Lake Tahoe Humane Society and help them help local animals in need.
Hopeful Henry is a column managed by Niki Congero, executive director of Lake Tahoe Humane Society & S.P.C.A. Submit questions or letters via e-mail to AskHenry@LakeTahoeHumaneSociety.org or by mail to P.O. Box PET South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. For more information, visit http://www.Facebook.com/LakeTahoeHumaneSocietySPCA, http://www.Facebook.com/Hopeful.Henry or http://www.twitter.com/LtHumaneSociety.