Why do dogs develop skin cancer? There are a variety of reasons to answer this question.

Tumor formation is primarily due to abnormalities, mutations or defects in the way cells grow. Another contributor to these irregularities are what we call risk factors. These risk factors can come from the environment (like carcinogens), or they could also be internal factors (such as genetic or inherited inclinations). In this article, we will discuss environmental carcinogens.

Environmental Carcinogens

Why do dogs develop skin cancer? There are a variety of reasons to answer this question

Carcinogens present in the environment are inescapable in daily life. Everyone, which includes you and your dog, interacts with these carcinogens every day. Unlike their human masters, however, dogs are unable to wear protection and are therefore at a higher risk. Environmental carcinogens can be classified two ways: as either chemical carcinogens, or physical carcinogens.

Chemical carcinogens
are found in products that we commonly use and consume. Examples of these would be lawn-care products, chemicals we use to clean our houses, or even food can contain carcinogenic ingreients. The chemical content of these products may be reactive by themselves, or can be reactive with bodily enzymes that, when introduced into the body, may interfere with the natural cell growth process. Such interference with natural metabolic processes can lead to defective cell growth and the beginning of cancerous tumor growth. Chemical carcinogens can enter the body through the skin, inhalation, and ingestion.

Our food, for example, contains chemicals such as artificial additives, preservatives, by-products, and fillers, while fruits and vegetables are grown with the aid of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. Dog food isn’t exempted from these harmful chemicals. Both we and our pets ingest these elements on a daily basis.

As stated before, humans can wear protection. While we wear shoes everyday as we walk out of our houses, or wear gloves and masks, our dogs walk all over our properties barefoot, sometimes licking his feet as any innocent and trusting creature would.

Physical carcinogens affect the body and cause cancer through their physical properties and effects. Some of the most common forms of these carcinogens that are always present in our surroundings are radiation, hard and soft materials, fibrous and non-fibrous particles, and gel materials.

Examples of carcinogenic radiation are electromagnetic radiation, X-rays, and ultraviolet radiation. Carcinogenic hard and soft materials are metals and alloys such as platinum, titanium, steel and silver. Some synthetic materials that are also cancer-causing are rubber, cellophane, Teflon, silicone gels, linen, parchment paper, silk, and ivory. One of the most common forms of physical carcinogens is asbestos–an indestructible fibrous carcinogen that is found everywhere, including the air, in homes, and the workplaces. This agent is now even detected in water, food, and drugs.

These environmental factors need not cause you undue alarm, if you are a responsible and caring pet owner. Knowing what to fight against is half the battle. Continue reading the next article in this series called The Causes of Dog Skin Cancer, Part 2: Genetic Factors to know more about what causes skin cancer in your dog.

Other contributors to cancer aside from carcinogens and genetic defects are obesity, vaccinations, immune system problems, and hormonal factors.

Skin cancer may occur when mast cells are chronically or frequently activated by allergic reactions brought about by environmental carcinogens or genetic factors. This is when antibodies bind with mast cells and release reactive agents such as histamines, heparin, enzymes, and cytokines.

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