Geographic Differences in Pet Cancers

Did you know that geography plays a role in differences in cancer in our dogs and cats? These differences can be attributed mostly to environmental factors and detection rates between regions.

Dr. Karen Oberthaler recently moved here from New York City and has noticed some significant differences in her patients.  For example, because Florida is conducive to sunbathing (for people and pets!), Dr. Oberthaler sees more UV-induced tumors here.  White cats get squamous cell carcinomas on their ear tips and noses, which she hardly ever saw in New York City.  Also, dogs who are likely to lay on their back with their bellies in the sun can develop hemangiosarcomas on the skin of their abdomen, usually near the groin where the hair is thinner.  Dr. Oberthaler says, “Again, those are rare in New York City (probably because so it’s difficult to find an apartment with an unobstructed sun beam!)  And also glass filters the UV rays, so these really are outdoor pet tumors.”

Speaking of yards, there is an established risk between spraying herbicides on the plants and grass and developing bladder cancers in dogs.  Dr. Oberthaler notes that she has already seen more dogs with bladder tumors in the short time that she has been here in South Florida.

On the flip side, Dr. Oberthaler believes that she will have seen more feline lymphoma and feline oral squamous cell carcinoma in New York than here.  This is because in both those cases household tobacco exposure is a risk factor for developing these cancers.  The theory is that indoor cats have to sit in a household filled with carcinogens (the ash) and they end up with it in their fur from being in the rugs, so on.  When they groom it off themselves, it often ends up in the gastrointestinal tract, which can cause both oral and intestinal cancers.  Cats in the city are generally in much more confined quarters and they don’t have access to the outside, so they have to sit in the polluted air all day.  Typically, a house cat in New York will have its bathroom habits observed more closely because they don’t go out as much and their families might be able to pick up on diarrhea or other issues sooner than in Florida where a lot of cats get to use the bathroom outside.  This may indicate that there is both an increase in incidence and faster detection in New York City.

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