New Research Shows a Genetic Cause of Lymphoma in Dogs

As a veterinarian with over 40 years of experience, I have diagnosed many cases of malignant disease (cancers) in dogs and cats. Veterinarians have long recognized breed predispositions of some cancers such as lymphosarcoma. We now have evidence of a genetic role in the development of this cancer.

What is lymphoma?
Lymphoma is a malignant disease of the various lymphatic tissues. Until recently, the cause remained poorly understood but advanced genetic research is opening many doors.

[Learn more about lymphoma here.]

How common is lymphoma in dogs?
Canine lymphoma or lymphoma-sarcoma is one of the most common cancers in dogs, according to Dogs spontaneously develop lymphoma, and the predisposition of certain breeds indicates genetic risk factors. According to the National Canine Cancer Foundation, Boxers, Bull Mastiffs, Basset Hounds, Saint Bernards, Scottish Terriers, Airedales and Bull Dogs appear to be at increased risk for this disease (Broad Institute adds Cocker Spaniel, Golden Retriever and Irish Wolfhound), but lymphoma can affect any dog, of any breed, at any age.

New research looks at role of genetics in lymphoma
Recent advances have improved our understanding of the genetic basis of cancer. Using a technique for DNA sequencing of lymphomas from three dog breeds (Boxer, Cocker Spaniel and Golden Retriever), researchers from ten U.S. and international institutions of veterinary and human medicine studied the genetic mutations in B- and T-cell lymphomas from these breeds. They showed mutation patterns indicative of a genetic cause for the disease. Their results were published Sept. 16 in Genome Research.

This new evidence of genetic causes may have an invaluable impact on our ability to prevent the disease through selective breeding of dogs and genetic counseling of people.

What can be gained from the new lymphoma research?
The Canine Health Foundation reports that, according to Jessica Alfoldi, PhD, a senior author of the study, the results are beneficial not only to dogs but also to human companions who share the disease.

Breakthroughs in canine diseases such as this can have great impact on the development of new diagnostic and treatment methods in human medicine.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Can Dogs Get Cancer From Second-Hand Smoke?

Second-hand smoke and dogs: Can my dog or cat get cancer as a result of second hand smoke and, in general, does my smoking harm my dog or cat?

That’s a question asked of us by a reader who asked to remain anonymous.

Not only does second hand smoke harm dogs and cats, it can actually increase their chance of getting cancer by up to four times.

A vet from Tufts University, Massachusetts says a dog or cat living in a house with smokers has a significantly increased risk of getting feline lymphoma in cats and dogs are equally at risk of contracting similar, deadly disease.

Dr Anthony Moore hopes new research linking exposure to second-hand smoke and the most common type of feline cancer will encourage people to stop smoking.

This type of cancer kills three quarters of its victims within a year.

Dr Moore and other researchers have had their findings published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. He said “I think there are a lot of people who might not quit smoking for themselves or their family. But they might for their dogs or cats.”

The researchers studied 180 cats treated at a Tufts veterinary hospital between 1993 and 2000. Finding that, adjusting for age and other factors, cats exposed to second hand smoke had more than double the risk of getting feline lymphoma. Exposed to five years of more of second hand smoke cats had more than triple the risk. In a two smoker household, the risk increased by a factor of four.

The same researchers plan a similar study on dogs but there is already significant from other studies showing the risk of cancer is greatly increased in dogs who are frequently exposed to second hand smokea .

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has informed smokers that the increased cancer risk in dogs is just one other good reason to quit the habit.

“We’re all aware of the scientific research that shows that people who smoke are more likely to get certain types of cancer and other diseases, but a lot of people don’t know that the same goes for the pets of smokers,” said Dr. Ron DeHaven, chief executive officer, in a video encouraging pet owners to kick the habit.

Lung cancer and nasal cancer are particularly threatening to dogs while cats that live with smokers are twice as likely to develop malignant lymphoma — fatal to three out of four cats within a year — and are more likely to get mouth cancer.

Dr. John Reif, professor at the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, says that dogs with short noses have double the risk of lung cancer and long-nosed dogs such as collies have two and half times greater risk of nasal cancer from second hand smoke.

“Smoking is a very dangerous exposure for many human diseases — cancer, cardiovascular disease and others — and anything we can do to encourage people to stop smoking would be helpful,” Dr. Reif said in a podcast encouraging pet owners to kick the habit.

“I’m hoping that by publicising this information that more people will get involved in the Great American Smokeout this year, and the love of their pets will inspire them to finally kick the habit,” Dr. DeHaven said.

The American Legacy Foundation(R) too is challenging pet owners to quit smoking for the health of their pets. A growing body of research shows there are no safe levels of exposure to second hand smoke — for humans or for animals. And one new study shows that nearly 30 percent of pet owners live with at least one smoker — a number far too high given the consequences of exposure to secondhand smoke (“SHS”).

“Second hand smoke doesn’t just affect people,” said Dr. Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH, President and CEO of the American Legacy Foundation(R), the national independent public health foundation dedicated to keeping young people from smoking and providing resources to smokers who want to quit. “While most Americans have been educated about the dangers of smoking to their own bodies, it is equally important that pet owners take action to protect their beloved domestic pets from the dangers of secondhand smoke.”

An estimated 50,000 Americans lose their lives to second hand smoke annually and 4 million youth (16 percent) are exposed to second hand smoke in their homes. A number of studies have indicated that animals, too, face health risks when exposed to the toxins in second hand smoke, from respiratory problems, allergies and even nasal and lung cancer in dogs and lymphoma in cats. In addition, the ASPCA, one of the largest animal rights groups in the U.S., lists tobacco smoke as a toxin that is dangerous to pets.

“Nicotine from second hand smoke can have effects to the nervous systems of cats and dogs,” said Dr. Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, Medical Director of the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center. “Environmental tobacco smoke has been shown to contain numerous cancer-causing compounds, making it hazardous for animals as well as humans. Studies have shown increases in certain types of respiratory cancers in dogs that live in homes with smokers. In addition, exposure to secondhand smoke has been shown to cause many of the same harmful inflammatory changes in the airways and lungs of dogs as their human counterparts. For these reasons, owners should not expose their pets to second-hand smoke in order to minimize the risk of their pets developing lung disease or cancer.”

According to a study published in the February 2009 edition of Tobacco Control, 28 percent of pet owners who smoke reported that information on the dangers of pet exposure to SHS would motivate them to try to quit smoking. These findings, coupled with the research on the effects of SHS exposure to animals, signals a new front in the public health community’s battle to save lives from tobacco-related disease.

In order to better protect dogs, cats or other pets, the foundation and ASPCA recommend that smokers — who often consider their domestic pets a part of the family — “take it outside” when they are smoking.

A Wolf in Pup's Clothing

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Evanston, IL (PRWEB) May 18, 2016

Americans are unwittingly choosing the look of their lawns over the health of their dogs.

In an article published in the January 2012 of "Environmental Research", researchers from Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine found that Americans are poisoning their pets by applying commonly used synthetic lawn care products such as toxic herbicides and chemical fertilizers (

“A lot of well-meaning homeowners don’t realize how dangerous common lawn & garden products are, especially to pets who want to put their noses exactly where you’ve applied them,” Marc Wise, founder and owner of Evanston-based Greenwise Organic Lawn Care (, said. “It’s especially tragic because you can have a beautiful, healthy lawn using organic products that are readily available, affordable, and more effective that toxic synthetics.”

According to a study conducted over a six year period at the Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, exposure to synthetic lawn pesticides-- typically those applied by traditional professional lawn care companies – raised the risk of canine malignant lymphoma (CML) by as much as 70 percent.

Dogs at highest risk for acquiring CML were over 50 pounds and living in homes where pesticides and herbicides were professionally applied, as well as homes where owners used lawn care products containing insect growth regulators (chemical killing agents).

Another study performed at the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Purdue University ( concluded certain garden and lawn chemicals are linked to canine bladder cancer, including common synthetic herbicides. The dogs’ exposure to the chemicals occurred through ingestion, inhalation, and transdermally (through the skin).

The study showed that most of the dogs from homes using the chemicals had herbicides in their urine. Since some dogs from homes that did not use the products also had herbicides in their urine, researchers concluded the wind could carry the chemicals up to 50 feet from the site where they were applied.

“Chemicals don’t stop at property lines,” Wise said. “We must first switch to organic lawn care in our own backyard—for our sake and the good of our neighbors—then educate our community about the needless danger we’re exposing our best friends to every time we apply dangerous chemicals to our lawn.”

In the US and Canada, dogs are routinely spayed and neutered when they’re between four and nine months old. Many puppies coming out of shelters are spayed as early as eight weeks of age. In order to be considered a responsible owner of a female dog, you’re expected to spay her before her first estrus cycle. However, recent studies have found that de-sexing dogs, especially too early in life, can have a detrimental effect on their health.

What many of us in North America don’t realize is that intact dogs are the norm in Europe. Responsible dog owners are those who effectively manage their intact dogs to prevent them from reproducing. When female dogs go into heat, people simply manage the situation by removing them from group events until the heat cycle is complete. The dogs are kept at home or sequestered from males, and are walked on a leash. Alternatively, their guardians implement ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies (more on this later).

Why is spaying and neutering an issue?

The problem with de-sexing dogs is that we’re not just sterilizing them we’re also removing extremely important sex hormone-secreting tissues, namely the ovaries and testes. As a result, we’ve created health problems that are non-existent or significantly less prevalent in intact pets.

Over the last several years, a number of small, breed-focused and primarily retrospective studies have been conducted on the effects of spay/neuter in large and giant breeds, providing us with a growing body of evidence that indicates de-sexing, especially early in life, significantly increases the risk of serious health problems.

In large and giant breed females, for example, spaying increases the risk of obesity, cranial cruciate ligament disease, hip dysplasia, urinary incontinence, cystitis, and several types of cancer (see below), including lymphoma, mast cell tumors, hemangiosarcoma and osteosarcoma.

Musculoskeletal disorders in de-sexed dogs

Removing a dog’s ability to produce important hormones while his/her skeleton is still developing can result in delayed closure of the growth plates at the end of each long bone. This can cause a dog’s legs to grow longer than normal.

  • One study indicates that Labrador and golden retrievers de-sexed before six months of age develop one or more joint disorders at two to five times the rate of intact dogs.
  • When it comes to problems with cranial cruciate ligaments, large breed dogs spayed under six months of age have three times the risk for early life CCL injuries, while dogs de-sexed at any age have a two to three times higher incidence of CCL disease compared with intact dogs.
  • In a study of several hundred golden retrievers, none of the intact dogs had CCL disease however, 7.7% of spayed females who were de-sexed before they were a year old developed CCL injuries.
  • Another study of 40 years of data collected on a range of different dogs de-sexed at a variety of ages showed a 17% increased risk of hip dysplasia.

How I approach the sterilization issue

Over the years, I’ve changed my views on de-sexing, based not only on a mounting body of research, but also on the health challenges faced by so many of my canine patients after I sterilized them. My current approach is to work with each individual pet owner to make decisions that will provide the most health benefits for the dog.

1. Whenever possible, I prefer to leave dogs intact. However, this approach requires a highly responsible pet guardian who is fully committed to and capable of preventing the dog from mating (unless the owner is a responsible breeder and that’s the goal).

It’s important to note that I’m not advocating the adoption of intact shelter animals to people who may or may not be responsible pet owners. Shelter veterinarians don’t have the time or resources to build a relationship with every adoptive family, so the animals in their care must be sterilized prior to adoption to prevent more litters of unwanted pups.

2. My second choice is to sterilize without de-sexing. This means performing a procedure that will prevent pregnancy while sparing the testes or ovaries so they can continue to produce the hormones essential for the dog’s health and well-being.

For females, this involves either a tubal ligation or a modified spay (basically a hysterectomy). The modified spay removes the uterus while preserving the hormone-producing ovaries. It also eliminates the possibility of pyometra because the uterus is removed.

Unfortunately, veterinary schools in the US only teach full spays and neuters, so unless your vet has obtained additional training in sterilization techniques that spare the ovaries or testicles (which is unlikely), you’ll have only one option available. The Parsemus Foundation maintains a list of vets that perform ovary-sparing spays and also has instructional videos for vets who want to learn the technique.

In this case, my suggestion would be to wait until your dog has reached full musculoskeletal maturity and if you have a female, I’d wait until she has completed her first estrus cycle before scheduling the surgery.

Cancers linked to de-sexing

  • Research shows that intact large and giant breed dogs have a lower risk of developing lymphoma than de-sexed dogs. Another risk factor for lymphoma is de-sexing before the age of one. Spaying/neutering is also associated with a two to four times higher risk for mast cell tumors.
  • In another study, Rottweilers who were de-sexed before they were a year old had a one-in-four lifetime risk for bone cancer and in general, they were significantly more likely to develop the disease than intact Rotties.
  • A further study concluded that from 1980 through 1994, the risk for bone cancer in large breed purebred dogs increased twofold in dogs that were de-sexed. Spayed or neutered dogs are also three times more likely to develop transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder than intact dogs.
  • A number of studies have also linked behavior problems to early de-sexing.

Responsible care of an intact female dog

Intact female dogs have one or two heats a year. You can typically tell a heat cycle is on its way when the dog’s vulva begins to enlarge. As with humans, there’s bleeding involved but unlike human females, who are not fertile during menstruation, dogs are just the opposite. Female dogs can get pregnant only during heats, and for about three to four days as unfertilized eggs ripen in their bodies.

Some dogs will signal during this time by flagging, which means lifting the tail base up and to the side. Some females will stand and can be mounted at any time during their heat cycle, including before and after they’re pregnant or fertile. Others show no behavior signs whatsoever. Owners of intact female dogs must know the signs of heat in their own pets, so they can separate them from male dogs during this time. If you have a female dog in heat, you should never leave her alone outside, even for a second, and even in a fenced-in yard.

Another way to prevent unwanted pregnancies is to use a product such as the Delay Her Spay harness from PABS. This “chastity belt” for dogs deters accidental breeding. Made from soft and durable webbing with a mesh backing, it’s designed to keep the dog’s hind end covered at all times, while allowing her to urinate through the mesh, and defecate over the top.

The heat cycle lasts about three weeks, but the menstrual bleeding can be unpredictable during this time. It isn’t consistently heavy nor does it occur every day all day. Many people with intact female dogs invest in special diapers or panties that can hold a sanitary napkin to contain the discharge. Pads can also be added to the Delay Her Spay harness to protect your floors and furniture from discharge. Typically, though, female dogs are incredibly good at keeping themselves very clean. Most of the time, there’s very little mess.

Keeping your dog intact, or at least delaying the spay/neuter procedure, can help prevent a host of health problems down the road. Having an intact dog comes with some extra responsibilities, of course, but they’re not onerous and are well worth the effort.

Watch the video: 5 Signs That Indicate That a Dog Is Going To Die

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