Dogs exposed to carcinogens are at risk for developing cancer. In particular, older dogs or pups with compromised immune systems are at higher risk. Unlike humans, dogs are unable to protect themselves from the carcinogens they come in contact with and are therefore reliant on their human companions to keep them safe from harm.
A number of environmental carcinogens can negatively impact a dog’s chances for developing cancer. For example, regularly walking a dog on a street that has a significant amount of exhaust fumes from cars can be deadly over time because of repeated long-term exposure. In this type of scenario, dogs are not only exposed to the carcinogen initially but may incur even more damage by later cleaning and licking their coats, which can contain residual carcinogens from the atmosphere.
Chemicals used in the home and garden, such as pesticides, insecticides and cleaning products, all have the potential to be carcinogens in your dog. Not only can your dog potentially inhale or ingest these chemicals, they can also absorb them through their skin and footpads. Some plastic dog bowls also contain carcinogens that can be dangerous to your pet, making stainless steel bowls a better choice.
Dogs run the risk of nose, mouth and lung cancer if they're exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke. Not smoking around your dog is one way to avoid this problem. Even ventilated rooms or outdoor smoking can allow secondhand smoke to infiltrate your dog’s sinus cavities. Over the long term, the regular exposure can lead to a variety of deadly cancers.
While many people put sunscreen on their skin if they're going to be outdoors during daylight hours, many don’t think to protect their dogs in the same way. Just as you can get skin cancer from dangerous rays, dogs are susceptible to this form of cancer as well. In particular, light-color or white-haired dogs have higher risk because they burn more easily. Dogs who get extensive sun exposure on their pale underbellies are also susceptible.
In addition to physically protecting your dog from possible carcinogens actively and passively, monitor your dog’s behavior and appearance. If your dog develops tumors or unusual skin lesions, talk to your vet. Elderly dogs, in particular, have a higher incidence of cancer, and twice-a-year physical exams can help you identify problems before they spread.
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