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The 2021 AKC Canine Health Foundation Parent Club Conference

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212 – October, 2021

By Caroline Coile

The 2021 AKC Canine Health Foundation National Parent Club Health Conference was a virtual event this year. I confess it was nice to attend at home in my shorts, but the experience drove home the value of networking with researchers as well as with parent club health representatives. Plus, there was no good food. Nonetheless, there was still plenty of good information, divided into topics of dermatology, cancer, neurology, and cardiology. There’s never space to cover every presentation, but here are the highlights of the cancer and neurology sessions. I’ll cover the dermatology and cardiac session next month.

Environment and Cancer

In her talk “Environmental Cancer Risk in Dogs and People,” Lauren Trepanier, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, DACVCP, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, reported on her research examining the role of household and neighborhood influences on lymphoma and bladder cancer. First, they compared the environments of 56 Boxers with lymphoma to 84 Boxers, 10 years and older without lymphoma. They did this by questionnaire to the owners, by using Google maps to find neighboring sources of pollution such as crops, golf courses or power plants, water utility data, EPA pollution data by county, and NATA pollution data. They found that Boxers with lymphoma were more likely to live within 2 miles of an active crematorium (odds ration of 2.2), within 2 miles of a chemical supplier (odds 2.3) and within 10 miles of a nuclear power plant (odds 5.8). Risks also included formaldehyde (found in off-gasses from paints, paneling and medium-density fiberboard); 1.3-butadiene (found in car exhaust and industrial air pollution); and ozone (which does not itself cause cancer but is a marker of pollution with volatile organic compounds). How can dog owners avoid these risks? Aside from moving, we can choose low-VOC paints, paneling and wood products; avoid idling our cars, and of course, advocate for stronger air pollution controls for us and our dogs.

In a second study Trepanier looked at factors that might influence bladder cancer in dogs. In some humans and dogs, bladder cancer is known to have environmental causes. Half of all cases in people are linked to smoking, and 20% to industrial jobs or herbicide applicators. The risk is higher in industrial areas, but the responsible chemicals are unknown. Dog bladder cancer may in fact be a good model for human bladder cancer, as dogs and humans share environments, and the disease is naturally occurring. Canine bladder cancer resembles the more invasive form of human bladder cancer that is difficult to treat effectively. In dogs, bladder cancer is more common in Scottish Terriers, Westies, Beagles, and Shelties; in obese dogs and females; and in areas with herbicide use. Using the same types of data as in the Boxer lymphoma study, the researchers compared 66 dogs with bladder cancer to 70 unaffected dogs, 11 years or older. They found that dogs with bladder cancer were from households that used more insecticides (odds ration of 4.3); were more likely to live in a county with high ozone levels (odds ratio 4.6); and lived in counties with 3-fold higher levels of total trihalomethanes in tap water (P<0.0001). The latter is a very significantly high finding. Trihalomethanes are by-products of disinfection in tap water. Note that they can be removed by some water filtration units, so it may be worth finding the levels in your county and, if needed, investing in a unit to remove it.

The researchers went further and compared possible bladder-cancer causing chemicals in the urine of dogs and people in the same household. The most interesting finding was that these chemicals, which included metabolites of arsenic, 2,4-D weed killer and acroleins (found in cooking fumes) were present in dog urine at much higher levels than in human urine.

In the question and answer period, the question was raised about long-lasting flea and tick medications. Trepanier replied that the older organophosphate dips and sprays were in fact associated with bladder cancer but that newer spot-on treatments are not. Another question asked about chlorine in pools. This was not included in the present surveys but may be in future ones. She pointed out that there is lots of potential information, including the availability of frozen urine samples, from the ongoing Golden Retriever lifetime study. Trepanier plans to conduct further studies looking at gliomas and nasal carcinomas and is recruiting affected dogs for these studies. If you would like to participate, contact her at

The Life and Times of the Hero Dogs of 9/11

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212 – October, 2021

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