5 Ways to Reduce Your Dog's Cancer Risk

Don't allow your dog to become overweight. Studies show that restricting the amount of calories an animal eats prevents and/or delays the progression of tumor development across species, including canines.

Fewer calories cause the cells of the body to block tumor growth, whereas too many calories can lead to obesity, and obesity is closely linked to increased cancer risk in humans. There is a connection between too much glucose, increased insulin sensitivity, inflammation, and oxidative stress – all factors in obesity – and cancer.

It's important to remember that fat doesn't just sit on your pet's body harmlessly. It produces inflammation that can promote tumor development.

Feed an anti-inflammatory diet. Anything that creates or promotes inflammation in the body increases the risk for cancer. Current research suggests cancer is actually a chronic inflammatory disease, fueled by carbohydrates. The inflammatory process creates an environment in which abnormal cells proliferate.

Cancer cells require the glucose in carbohydrates to grow and multiply, so you want to eliminate that cancer energy source. Carbs to remove from your pet's diet include processed grains, fruits with fructose, and starchy vegetables like potatoes. Keep in mind that all dry pet food contains some form of starch. It may be grain-free, but it can't be starch-free because it's not possible to manufacture kibble without using some type of starch.

Cancer cells generally can't use dietary fats for energy, so high amounts of good quality fats are nutritionally beneficial for dogs fighting cancer, along with a reduced amount of protein and no carbs. I recently learned that dogs fighting cancer can do a better job addressing this sugar-crazed disease if their protein intake is limited for 120 days, more on that later!

Another major contributor to inflammatory conditions is a diet too high in omega-6 fatty acids and too low in omega-3s. Omega-6s increase inflammation while the omega-3s do the reverse. Processed pet food is typically loaded with omega-6 fatty acids and deficient in omega-3s.

A healthy diet for your pet – one that is anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer – consists of real, whole foods, preferably raw. It should include high-quality protein, including muscle meat, organs and bone. It should also include high amounts of animal fat, high levels of EPA and DHA (omega-3 fatty acids), and a few fresh cut, low glycemic veggies..

This species-appropriate diet is high in moisture content and contains no grains or starches. I also recommend making sure the diet is balanced following the ancestral diet recommendations, which have much more rigorous standards (higher amounts of minerals and vitamins) than our current dietary recommendations for pets (AAFCO).

A few beneficial supplements like probiotics, medicinal mushrooms, digestive enzymes, and super green foods can also be very beneficial to enhance immune function.

Reduce or eliminate your dog's exposure to toxins. These include chemical pesticides like flea and tick preventives, lawn chemicals (weed killers, herbicides, etc.), tobacco smoke, flame retardants, and household cleaners (detergents, soaps, cleansers, dryer sheets, room deodorizers).

Because we live in a toxic world and avoiding all chemical exposure is nearly impossible, I also suggest offering a periodic detoxification protocol to your pet.

Allow your dog to remain intact (not neutered or spayed), at least until the age of 18 months to two years. Studies have linked spaying and neutering to increasing cancer rates in dogs. Even better, investigate alternative ways to sterilize your pet without upsetting his or her important hormone balance.

Refuse unnecessary vaccinations. Vaccine protocols should be tailored to minimize risk and maximize protection, taking into account the breed, background, nutritional status and overall vitality of the dog.

The protocol I follow with healthy puppies is to provide a single parvo and distemper vaccine at or before 12 weeks, and a second set after 14 weeks. I then titer (ask your vet to run titers at a lab that uses the IFA method) two weeks after the last set and if the dog has been successfully immunized, he is protected for life.

I do not use or recommend combination vaccines (five to seven viruses in one injection), which is the standard yearly booster at many veterinary practices. In my experience, this practice is completely unnecessary and immunologically risky.


GRF Update: Shine On Challenge

Join The GRF in the

Shine On Challenge  

As We Eagerly Support
The Next Generation of Cancer Research 

In the winter of 2015, Catherine Meddaugh, a long time Golden fancier and benefactor of the Golden Retriever Foundation, contacted the GRF Board with a remarkably generous offer:  to provide $100,000 as a donor challenge to address hemangiosarcoma in Golden Retrievers.  Cathy’s reasons were both professional, as someone who is committed to a healthy future for our breed, but more importantly personal.  Cathy’s precious Golden, Shine, had been diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma and was battling the disease.  Far too many of us have been involved in this devastating battle with our own Goldens.

The opportunity to make this challenge a reality soon came to an amazing nexus with several agencies, foundations, and researchers finding their way to a collaboration that is unprecedented.  Through many conversations with Cathy, Dr. Jaime Modiano, GRCA Research Facilitator Rhonda Hovan, and the GRF Board, a plan fell into place that would maximize the potential of Cathy’s Shine On dream.  Goldens are sadly not the only breed that is stricken by hemangiosarcoma.  Connections were made, and we are excited to announce that the GRF has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the American Boxer Charitable Foundation and the Portuguese Water Dog Foundation, as well as with the AKC Canine Health Foundation, to develop a joint research project with a thrilling new support level of $400,000.  Never before has the GRF developed partnerships with other individual breed foundations, and we are thrilled at the prospect of what these partnerships might yield.  We are thrilled to announce that the project has been approved by the Canine Health Foundation, and will be starting in January 2016!

On our home page you will find an article about the research proposal, with the science behind our dream.  We wager that you will feel as we did when Dr. Modiano explained his next steps:  awestruck, thrilled, and optimistic.  

Sadly, Cathy’s darling Shine lost his battle with hemangiosarcoma in June of this year.  We are even more committed now to this challenge.  We will Shine On until we have the answers that will change the lives of dogs like Shine forever. 

Won’t you join in the Shine On Challenge, to build on the foundational research that you have so generously helped fund in the past, as we soar into the spotlight of a future where Golden Retrievers have brighter futures and longer lives, free of the hideous disease that takes them from us too soon? 

Thank you, Cathy!   We will Shine On… 


Frequently, families seeking information about our Goldens have lost a Golden to a tragic early cancer. Rightly so, they inquire if we have experienced this problem in our bloodlines. Unfortunately the answer is yes. Because we believe in the importance of honesty and how it will ultimately better the Monogram breeding program, we would like to provide visitors to our website with information regarding this problem in the breed.


Through scrupulous medical testing, careful selection of animals for planned crosses, and elimination from the breeding pool of dogs with inherited diseases, we as professional breeders have been able to reduce the incidence of many of genetically-transmitted diseases that have traditionally been associated with Goldens, including heart and eye diseases and joint dysplasia. However, it has become clear that early cancer in Goldens (as well as in many other breeds) has become a more common and devastating problem in recent years.

Although many of our dogs still live well into their teens, we have no clear answers as to why our bloodlines are no longer immune to the occasional early cancer, be it lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma, or osteosarcoma.

There is no known genetic ‘marker’ for cancer risk at present that can be used as a screening tool in a selective breeding program. The years we have spent in the breed and the depth of our experience shows us that, unfortunately, there does not appear to be a “clear bloodline” in any of the mainstream breeding programs. We communicate with Golden breeders across the country and Canada and can report that everyone has been affected by this problem at one point or another.


Collectively, through the efforts of the Golden Retriever Foundation


an offshoot of the Golden Retriever Club of America


breeders and owners have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars on cancer research and still there are no definitive answers. Many of us (all Monogram dogs included) have donated blood DNA samples to the Broad Institute in Boston



where they are very actively doing research on the potential genetic risk factors for cancer. This research has not yet given us an answer; however, early cancer is something with which we responsible breeders are very concerned and we will continue to make every effort to support cancer research.


As we have previously explained, no known bloodlines (including our own) have been immune to the occasional early death from cancer. We never repeat a breeding that has produced an early cancer. What makes the problem even more perplexing is the fact that, often the parents and siblings of a dog that has succumbed to early cancer will live long and healthy lives. It appears there is no rhyme or reason to which dogs will be affected.

We make an effort to prioritize health and longevity, but we also desire to breed Goldens that are true to the breed Standard -- most importantly, the Breed’s incredible temperament. We don’t believe we have cornered the market on great Golden temperament and trainability, but because we have developed and maintained a bloodline for many years, temperament and trainability are things for which we now have a high degree of predictability. It is one thing we feel we can virtually guarantee: our experience has shown that a Forum Golden will be highly trainable, athletic, loving, sweet, and trustworthy. We wish we could guarantee everything else...longevity, health, etc., but it is simply not possible to do so until better scientific tools become available.

We do believe in routinely enriching the genetic diversity of our bloodline by doing carefully selected crosses with outstanding Goldens with strong bloodlines and excellent breed characteristics.


We want and need feedback from our buyers. If there is a problem, we need to know and we will do our best to assist the family in any way we can. Currently we recommend spaying for females past the age of 2 years (this is new information in the past few years) vs. early spay/neuter. For males there is new medical reviews through UC Davis indicating males need there hormones in order for there immune system to work properly. Please click on the link below and read the current studies that will help you to understand why we would do so. We ask that you not only read it, but that you share it with your veterinarian to make an informed choice.


 We also encourage you to provide blood DNA samples from your Golden to the Broad Institute’s cancer research projects. Go to their website (link is in 2nd paragraph) for instructions regarding sample submission. The more people we can get involved in these research projects, the better.

Cancer affects all of our pets and just as buyers expect and deserve their breeders to be vigilant, breeders need buyers to assist as well.

Please get involved!

Donate DNA samples

Donate money to the Golden Retriever Foundation Zeke Cancer Fund (link in 2nd paragraph), and/or the

Morris Animal Foundation.


Share this information with your friends and your VETERINARIAN. The future of our Goldens depends on it!


Monogram Golden Retrievers/Michele Leon