Can I prevent my dog from getting cancer?

(Q) I seem to hear more and more about dogs suffering from cancer these days. Is this because it is becoming more prevalent or simply that dogs are now living longer and we are better at diagnosing it? What types of cancer are most common in dogs and is there anything I can do to minimise the chances of my dog getting it?

(A) Vet Roberta Baxter says: There is evidence of cancer in human and animal skeletons from thousands of years ago, but it is hard to tell if cancer is becoming more common per se or whether it becomes more common in older individuals and our pets are living longer and longer. There is evidence of some kinds of cancer being linked to exposure to toxins, and others being more common in individuals who are generally unhealthy or depressed.

Common types of cancer in dogs include skin cancer and cancer of the reproductive organs but we do see many other types of cancer too. In order to reduce your dog's chance of having a problem, make sure he leads a healthy active life and eats a balanced diet.

Neutering should also reduce the chances of cancer occurring. Also, check your dog over regularly - any lumps, bumps or signs of disease should be identified and checked out promptly to give him the best chance of responding well to treatment.