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Do Environmental Pollutants Cause Cancer in Dogs?


Both Glickman and Moore stress the need for more studies. It’s not accurate to assume that if an individual pet gets cancer, it must be due to some factor noticed to be different in the environment—many factors may change simultaneously. For instance, says Moore, “When people were first looking at causes of Down Syndrome in humans, they found that the sixth child was much more likely to have Down Syndrome. So that was thought to be a risk factor. But it was really the age of the mother at birth.”

Clearly, careful studies that take a myriad of potential risk factors into consideration are needed—for example, comparing dogs who develop a specific cancer to similar groups of cancer-free dogs, and even similar groups with other types of cancer—in order to identify potential correlations. This sort of research, which involves a multitude of animals who are followed throughout their lifetimes, is expensive, often running into millions of dollars. The adage “forewarned is forearmed” applies here, however; understanding the connections between genetic predispositions and environmental risk factors gives us the information we need to make better decisions about the dogs we love and care for—decisions that could potentially improve the quality and length of their lives. And that benefit is priceless.


In 2007, the Morris Animal Foundation launched “Canine Cancer Cure,” a $30 million effort to cure canine cancer. This effort involves fundraising and managing and administering research grants to veterinary colleges and research organizations. Check for updates on their progress.

Originally published under the title: The Canine in the Coal Mine.”



This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 44: Sep/Oct 2007

Sophia Yin, DVM, is an applied animal behaviorist. A long-time The Bark contributing editor, she is also the author of two behavior books.

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Submitted by Dwight | January 31 2010 |

I'm a graduate of Ashland University with degrees in science and secondary education. One of my former professors, Dr. Weidenhamer, has made national news due to his research of childrens' toys and jewelry and presence of high levels of lead and cadmium contained within them. The biggest dangers occurs when the children have prolonged exposure to the lead and smaller children putting the toys in their mouth. Many of the toys that have shown extremely high levels of lead are ones made overseas (mostly China). Here's a link that about this: (http://personal.ashland.edu/~jweiden/lead.htm) and (http://blogs.consumerreports.org/safety/2009/09/lead-levels-in-childrens...).

My wife and I rescued a black lab mix dog. He goes through a lot of chew toys. While at the store, I noticed many of the toys we get for our dog also comes from overseas (ie. China). I've even come across some toys that are exactly the same as what's found at children's toy stores.

This got me to thinking. Should pet owners also be concerned of the possibility of lead in their pet toys? Has there been any research of the effects of lead in pets (dogs)? Since dogs tend to do a lot more of putting things in their mouth, chewing, and swallowing small amounts of chewed up plastic, what are the dangers of lead poisoning of our pets?

I've emailed my professor, Dr. Weidenhamer, regarding the testing of pet toys. He stated that some of the soft plastics used in pet toys are also used in physical therapy for people. Due to the large number of children's toys and general public's concern of their children, he doesn't have the time to test the pet toys.

We love our dog. He's an important part of our family. I know many others feel the same way about their dog(s). From going to the store the other day and seeing bottled water for dogs (which personally, I think is over the top), I know many people want the best for their dog...to be happy, healthy, loved, and well cared for. I feel that this is something that should also be looked into. Out of our love, I don't want to be an irresponsible pet owner and get something that could potentially be harmful for our dog. There are days that I believe our dog doesn't have too many IQ points to spare...he can't afford to lose anymore. (just kidding, he is pretty smart) Seriously, I think as a responsible pet owner, we need to speak on their behalf as to the hidden potential dangers of lead contained within pet toys.

So now, whenever we do get him some toys, I check the labels as to where they were made. It's not a guarantee, but hopefully it's a step in the right direction of keeping our beloved dog healthy.

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