Understanding Canine Tumours By Dr Tom Shurlock

The word tumour immediately causes worry to any pet owner. Dog tumours and cancers can be described across a bewildering array of situations, conditions and individual organs, and despite the reassurance that the growth may be benign, causes a great deal of concern and stress. Coupled with external growths, polyps, warts, surface lumps and bumps, the fact that the majority of tumours may be internal and so hidden, any uncertain health issue brings the possibility of tumours to the fore.

So, how common are these incidences?

Data from canine cancer registries show that for every 100,000 dog years – which broadly equates to 8,000 dogs (although increasing age is an influence) – there are approximately 800 malign and 900 benign tumours. Very broadly 1 in 5 dogs may develop a tumour, being 50:50 malign or benign. Not surprisingly purebreds were twice more prone, particularly Yorkies and Boxers; the most common malignancies being skin (30%), the gut (18%) and mammary (18%). These are spread equally across males and females, although smaller dogs have a higher incidence of mammary neoplasms. And, as would be expected, older dogs are more likely to be affected.

What are tumours?

Within the medical terms for different tumours, the definition of neoplasm broadly covers the condition. Neoplasms are excessive or abnormal growth of soft tissue cells, this mass becoming a tumour. Across all the variants of cancer development is a common factor. Central to this is the role of arachidonic acid – an essential polyunsaturated fatty acid.

Oxidation of arachidonic acid is one of the key factors in the release of inflammatory modulators, which is a natural response to cell membrane dysfunction – such as the development of neoplasia. There are oxidative enzymes, cyclooxygenase (COX), that act at the membrane to convert arachidonic into prostaglandins that promote normal cell function. In normal cells the enzyme COX2 is absent but when stimulated by inflammatory factors can increase cell proliferation, suppresses the immune system and reduces the apoptosis rate (the controlled destruction of cells – a critical function in maintaining the stasis of cell numbers). Research has shown that selective COX2 inhibitors exert a protective effect against gastric tumours, and the spread of other cancerous growths, and has confirmed the role of COX2 in tumour progression.

Is there anything that can help?

More recently there has been some research on the role of plant bioactives in the biochemical systems involving COX2. Dietary antioxidants can have specific interactions resulting in driving down COX2. Flavonoids such as resveratrol, epigallocatechin and the curcuminoids of turmeric. At the same time essential oils (terpenoids) have been shown to support the mechanisms of normal prostaglandin production.

There is evidence, in humans, that diet can help reduce incidences of cancer, a principle action being the reduction of obesity (also smoking and drinking – possibly not so important for dogs!). Other factors are omega-3 fatty acids (anti-inflammatory markers), antioxidants and bioactives. Inflammatory indices interact with oxidative factors and mediate the production of oxidative enzymes, so feeding plant bioactives that support the factors that down regulate those factors can help the dietary reduction of tumours.

Amongst those sources that have been shown to help remove COX2 production is turmeric. The essential oils supporting prostaglandin function, couple with the powerful antioxidant curcumin provides a two prong support to normal cell growth and death.

TurmerEase is a supplemental feed for Dogs. Based around turmeric, it contains a range of bioactive materials, designed to ensure good digestion and availability of the active ingredients. It is not a treatment, neither is it a cure, but TurmerEase contains factors that can support the integrity of those processes that counter neoplasic growth. In short, TurmerEase may well help!

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