My mantra since the beginning of ‘I Love a Dog’ has been ‘to be the person that I wish I could have called’ when Ruby was diagnosed with cancer; because there was no one for me to call. No one other than the oncology vet. She was amazing but there was no one for nutrition advice or supplements and natural medicines, or to help me interpret and understand all of the awful realities, like amputation, I was being told were ahead.
These days I’m honoured to say I am that person. I’m still learning every day but today dog lovers from all over the country call me every day for help with their dog’s cancer diagnosis and the best nutrition and supplements to support them and complement their veterinary oncology care.
Almost always there are tears, theirs mostly but often also mine. It’s a vulnerable and personal moment and I’ve been there. It brings stuff up for me too – even now. I know how painful and scary it is to face your dog’s mortality, not to mention the fearful unknowns of a cancer journey, and it takes me back to that time. However it’s my honour to hold space for that; to help them breathe through it and gather their resolve to be the best human they can be for their dog. To exhale and inhale and exhale again. Renewed, recharged, empowered. They know their dog needs them now more than ever, no matter how hard the road ahead, and I’m there to support them.
This year my private nutritional consults have more than doubled. 70% of them are for dogs recently diagnosed with cancer. Different breeds and ages, and different types and stages of cancer. (Although aging Labradors are substantially represented, ironic given Ruby was a Labrador – or maybe obvious, I’m not sure).
My mission to help dogs survive cancer continues (we’ve had some great wins this year! I love every one of them (did you see Oscar’s complete turnaround from the vet telling them to euthanise only to now a few months later he’s in complete remission?!!) – 🙂 – but it’s still their biggest killer. The science is evolving, and we are learning more, but one thing we know for sure is the earlier cancer is detected the better the outcome.
We know that good nutrition and natural immunity boosting and inflammation soothing medicines have great effects, for many health ailments, so technically if earlier is better then I want all dog lovers to start before a diagnosis. Why wait? This issue has been gnawing at me all year. How to get dog lovers to care about and act on the cancer risks of their dogs BEFORE they occur. Not wait for diagnosis.
I want to get people thinking about and ACTING to avoid cancer BEFORE it happens. Would you help me? Together we can do so much more.
Perhaps now I need to update my mantra. I’m wondering if there is a way to help people deal with cancer sooner so they don’t need to call, to avert the problem before it starts. Or at least minimise it and know that they’ve been doing their best all along? Is that too big to dream?
STUDY FINDS 88% OF CANCER DIAGNOSES OCCUR WHEN SYMPTOMS ARE OBVIOUS – but what if we’d looked or acted sooner?
This week I was reviewing an interesting study from January 2022 that reviewed a substantial cohort of dog cancer diagnoses from across the world and evaluating how they were detected.
Of 359 dogs, 4% of cases were detected during a wellness visit, 8% were detected incidentally, and 88% were detected after the ‘owner’ reported clinical signs. Around 40 difference cancer types and a range of stages were represented.
Of those dogs diagnosed the median age was 9.8 years and the median weight was 28.7kg. While some breeds were common (Golden Retriever, Labrador, German Shepherd, Boxer, English Bulldog, Corgi and Husky), most other demographics, such as gender, desexing, purebred to mix breed, made no material difference.
What if we were able to detect that cancer, or increased cancer risk, before it manifested? What if we fed our dogs to strengthen their immunity AS IF WE ARE ALREADY FIGHTING CANCER? Because we are!
But when do we start?
STUDY FINDS THE LIKELY AGE OF CANCER DIAGNOSIS BY BREED
In February 2023 an amazing study, published in PLOS ONE, looking at the optimal age to screen dogs for cancer – determined the likely age by breed, weight and sex for cancer diagnosis. This is incredibly helpful! These researchers were looking for the best age to start screening for cancer but the same could be said for when (if not before) to start feeding dogs to fight off cancer to our best ability.
Researchers looked at data of almost 3,500 dogs diagnosed with cancer in the US, including more than 120 breeds and a wide variety of cancer types, grades, and stages.
They determined that for dogs weighing 75 kilograms or more the median age at cancer diagnosis was 5 years, but for dogs weighing 2.5 to 5 kilograms was around 11 years of age. Given that large breed dogs have a shorter lifespan than small or tiny breeds this is perhaps unsurprising but still a meaningful reminder and warning.
Looking at breeds specifically, the researchers were able to determine that Mastiffs, Saint Bernards, Great Danes, and Bulldogs had the youngest median diagnosis age, at approximately six years. (See the graph below)
Irish Wolfhounds, Vizslas, and Bernese Mountain Dogs had median diagnosis ages of 6.1 to 7 years, and, on the other end of the spectrum, the diminutive Bichon Frise had the oldest median diagnosis age at 11.5 years.
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FEEDING A DIET THAT IS ANTI-INFLAMMATORY AND IMMUNE BOOSTING IS KEY
Feeding a diet that is anti-inflammatory and immune boosting is key. Every day I’m telling dog lovers who have just received a cancer diagnosis for their dog to do this and they usually start immediately. Often regretting not thinking about it sooner. I don’t have judgement around that. I just want us to start from where we are with the time that we have.
Things I recommend to take out of the diet are chicken, kibble, white rice, starchy vegetables and fatty, processed chews (to start), and to add in veggies (ideally fermented and include dark leafy greens, cruciferous and purples), good fats, turmeric, medicinal mushrooms and Moringa and bone broth (again stop start). It’s not hard to see that that is what our Medible range basically is – and that’s why – but people can start at home by taking bad ingredients out and adding good ingredients in.
I believe it’s never to early to start feeding your dog for health, strength and immunity. It’s no guarantee but once you’ve walked the cancer journey you don’t want to do it again. Or, you don’t want to do it having not done anything to try to avoid it before it happens.
I’ve lost count of the times dog lovers have told me that their vets have said things along the line of “we didn’t think they’d still be here by now. Whatever you’re doing keep doing it.” But I’d much rather see the incidence of cancer diagnosis go down or get much older along the age curve. Wouldn’t you??
I hope you’ll join this call and my new mantra and mission. Together we can make a difference for your dog and dogs around you.
That’s why I say “Love your dog better every day, every bowl”. Because we can.