by Dr. Kimberly Weiss
Carcinogens are everywhere, and each of us would need to live in a plastic bubble to avoid the toxic world we have created for ourselves—and then there are our pets. They can’t avoid most of these toxins. While our heads may be in the clouds, our pets are sucking up tons of toxins as they sniff, snort and smell the world around them.
According to the National Institutes of Health, “cancer is a group of more than 100 diseases that develop across time and involve the uncontrolled division of the body’s cells,” with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body. The body, be it man or animal, has a system of checks and balances that regulates cell growth and replication. When the system is under continual bombardment from stressors, these checks and balances begin to fail. The instructions that regulate cell reproduction get altered and the cells start to exponentially replicate. This is cancer.
Common stressors include smoking, drinking, cleaning products, pesticides, aerosols, car exhaust, coal burning, nuclear waste, various forms of radiation, heavy metals, pharmaceutical products and other chemicals invented to make living easier. Even if we do our best to avoid these stressors, our neighbors might consider it normal to pour chemical fertilizers on lawns to make them green, or to use pesticides to kill weeds and bugs. Rain then spreads those chemicals throughout the neighborhood into our waterways and eventually into our drinking water. Many botanists concur that the wind blows chemically coated seeds and spores for miles from their points of origin.
Often, humans don’t realize that our bad habits harm our pets as well as ourselves. We know that secondhand smoke causes cancer, and now recent research suggests that secondhand vapes do the same thing. It’s proven that pets living in the homes of smokers have contracted several types of nasal and lung cancers. Not only do our pets breathe in the secondhand smoke or vapes, but also the carcinogenic substances soak into pets’ coats, exposing them topically and systematically when pets lick themselves and swallow. Studies by the University of Minnesota showed nicotine and other cigarette toxins in the urine of pets living in the homes of smokers.
Birds are 10 times as susceptible to respiratory diseases, such as lung cancer, than cats and dogs. This is because their respiratory systems are so much more efficient, but it also means that damage occurs at an accelerated rate.
Chemicals that we normally think are beneficial can be deadly to our pets. Past studies done by the Experimental Toxicology Division at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency linked hyperthyroidism in cats to the fire retardant used in furniture. Fertilizers that we use to grow our vegetables and lawns have been linked to sino-nasal and digestive cancers in dogs and cats. Even nonchemical stressors, such as obesity or eating processed foods, can lead to pets developing cancer.
Bottom line: It is impossible to avoid all of the things that can or do cause cancer, both for our pets and ourselves. But we can do our best to minimize exposure. Eating healthily, breathing clean air, using natural products when possible, and decreasing our chemical use in our homes and yards may not completely prevent cancer, but it will reduce it.
Veterinarian Kimberly Weiss owns Healing Hands Veterinary Wellness Center, located at 1916 NW 39 St., in Oklahoma City. For more information, call 405-525-2255 or visit HealingHandsVetCenter.com.