DEAR DR. FOX: What is going on? I am heartbroken that I have lost my second boxer, Molly, an 8-year-old spayed dog, to incurable cancer. I go online and it makes me sick to read about so many kinds of cancer affecting us and our dogs. Can you give me any insight to help put my mind at rest, or is there no end to this? -- B.K., Washington, D.C.
DEAR B.K.: I have addressed this sad situation repeatedly in my newspaper column. Some breeds are more susceptible than others to certain types of cancer, which points to genetic susceptibility.
Researchers identified a specific variant of a gene associated with extended lifespan (nearly two years longer) in golden retrievers, and the findings may have implications for human cancer research, according to a study published in GeroScience. Golden retrievers are believed to be genetically predisposed to cancer, and the gene in question can both suppress and stimulate tumor growth. (Full story: ucdavis.edu, Oct. 19)
However, genetics are clearly not the only factor at play. Cancers are also common in mixed-breed dogs, like landrace dogs. So sheer genetic susceptibility does not seem to be the main cause. Rather, most epidemiologists see various cancers as being of environmental origin: specifically, from the chemical pollutants we have put into our air, food and water.
Humans, of course, suffer these same effects, tragically including the youngest among us. According to the American Childhood Cancer Organization (acco.org), "Each year in the U.S., there are an estimated 15,780 children between the ages of birth and 19 years of age who are diagnosed with cancer. Approximately 1 in 285 children in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer before their 20th birthday. Globally there are more than 300,000 children diagnosed with cancer each year." (Read more here: acco.org/us-childhood-cancer-statistics.)
Per the American Cancer Society (cancer.org), "After accidents, cancer is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 14. About 1,040 children under the age of 15 are expected to die from cancer in 2023." (Read more here: cancer.org/cancer/types/cancer-in-children/key-statistics.html.)
In my opinion, this is a national -- indeed, an international -- disgrace, where public health and preventive medicine have taken second place to those vested interests that pollute our air, water and food. As a longtime member and supporter of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, I am not alone in this perception of the tragic situation in what some regard as an “advanced” civilization. To find a veterinarian who shares this approach to companion animal health, go to ahvma.org.
WILD ANIMALS FEAR HUMANS MOST
I was recently asked by a reader for an answer to her child’s question: “Why are wild animals so afraid of us? Why do they always run away when they see me?”
My response is that, for hundreds of thousands of years, we humans (and our now-extinct carnivorous primate relatives) were predators, killing other animals for food. Now, some behavioral researchers have documented animals' instinctual aversion to humans.
According to a recent study, giraffes, elephants, rhinoceroses and other wild animals are more scared of the sounds of humans talking calmly than they are of lions. “If the fear of humans is so pervasive, and happens to all animals out there on our planet, then it really adds a new dimension to the worldwide environmental impacts that humans might be having,” said researcher Liana Zanette of the University of Western Ontario in Canada. (Read more here: "Fear of the human ‘super predator’ pervades the South African savanna" by Zanette et al, published in Current Biology, October 2023.)
As I have emphasized in an earlier column, visitors to wildlife preserves and wilderness areas disrupt the animals' feeding, resting, nursing and hunting patterns, which means those who really care should keep away. Authorities should limit public access to the hours of the day when the animals would be least disturbed.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)