“Pets can be the proverbial ‘canary in the coalmine’ when it comes to human health risks. We love our dogs, but sadly they are often the first to suffer from environmental health hazards in our households. A classic example is a dog developing mesothelioma after its owner’s house renovations reveal asbestos, or from over-application of certain flea repellents which can contain asbestos-like fibers. Chemicals like those found in tobacco smoke or garden products also put dogs at risk of common cancers like lymphoma or cancer of the bladder,” said Professor Palmieri.
According to Professor Palmieri, obtaining information on canine exposure to environmental risks is essential to comprehending the cause of spontaneous cancers. “We are working on the principle that if it is toxic to our pets, it will be toxic to humans as well,” she said.
Dogs are a better proxy for human health than many people realize, according to Professor Palmieri. “Dogs get cancer at roughly the same rate as humans, or even more,” she said. “We estimate that a quarter of dogs will develop cancer at some point, increasing to almost 50% of dogs over the age of 10.”
Common Link Between Canine Cancer Rates and Human Cancer Rates
According to Professor Palmieri, canine cancer rates are growing for some of the same causes that affect human cancer rates. “Things like longer lifespans, more focus on health indicators, increased use of diagnostic tests and the isolation of specific exposure risks,” she said. “If we can better understand the chronic exposures that are risky to dogs, we can do a better job of preventing them and decrease the incidence of certain tumors.”
The research group of Professor Palmieri has created a quick survey for dog owners. “We are compiling basic information about a dog’s age, sex, breed, weight and vaccination status, grooming routine and the flea/tick control products used,” she said. “But we’re also noting the location of the house, whether anyone in the house smokes and if the dog is exposed to herbicides and pesticides. It’s important to gather this data so we can better protect our canine companions while protecting ourselves at the same time.”