The Cancer Antidote that Lies Within: You Will Never Look At Fat The Same Way Again

In my last post, I promised you some really good reasons to keep your dog thin. You have probably heard about a number of them already, and I wrote about it in an earlier article. But you might not be familiar with this one.

What if I told you that by keeping him thin you can decrease the chance of your dog getting cancer? How is that for a really good reason?

Jasmine's best buddy died of cancer at the age of 7. He was always on the chubby side. “It's just a bit of winter fat,” his owner would say. Of course, he had more going for him than just that, and he was a Boxer. Apparently, Boxers are the second breed most prone to cancer, right after Golden Retrievers.

The average lifespan of Boxers should be around 11 years, though some resources list as high as 11 to 14 years. However, Jasmine's vet wasn't at all surprised that he would have died of cancer at the age of 7!

There are a number of factors contributing to canine cancer, some of which we have lesser control over than others. When I brought some of them up with Jasmine's vet, however, he felt very strongly that obesity plays a much more substantial role that many of those discussed. “Fat is highly metabolically active,” he said.

Fat is metabolically active? What does that mean?

What we all know is that fat tissue is the means of long-term energy storage. This function was very useful when neither man or dog knew where their next dinner was coming from--not so much today. You might also know that fat tissue serves as insulation from heat and cold and as protective padding around organs.

What you probably don't know, is that fat tissue (adipose) is, in fact, a complex organ with other important functions, including hormone production!

You heard right. Fat cells, also called adipocytes or lipocytes, besides their well-known function of storing energy, also produce a number of hormones (adipokines)! This classifies fat tissue as an endocrine organ with systemic influence!

Dr. Lorie Huston wrote an award-winning article about the role these hormones play in obesity--Recognizing Obesity in Dogs & Cats as a Disease: Examining the Endocrine and Secretory Function of Fat Cells.

However, the influence of adipokines goes even further. One of these hormones, TNFa, or Tumor necrosis factor-alpha, is involved in immune response. TNFa hormone regulates immune cells and it is able to induce inflammation, and anti-tumor response—thus tumor necrosis factor, it kills tumors.

Feeling more respect for fat tissue yet?

An adipokine that has been getting a lot of attention as a link between obesity and cancer is called adiponectin. Adiponectin has been found to inhibit the development and growth of cancer. The more adiponectin is present in the blood, the higher is your dog's resistance to cancer.

Well, this is all great, doesn't that make obesity a good thing then? The more the merrier?

Wouldn't that be nice! Unfortunately, that is not how this works, quite the opposite. Obesity inhibits the production of adiponectin, which increases vulnerability to cancer.

The levels of the TNFa (Tumor necrosis factor-alpha) on the other hand do increase proportionately. However, because of their pro-inflammatory function, their increased levels lead to chronic inflammation and insulin resistance. Further, chronic inflammation is also considered a contributing factor in cancer!

With hormones, optimal level is the key!

Hormones are chemical messengers that regulate physiological functions in the dog's body, such as metabolism, growth and sexual development. Disturbances in their proper levels have a profound systemic impact. Take a look at the result of improper levels of the thyroid, adrenal or pancreatic hormones! Hormones produced by fat tissue are no exception.

Your dog's body has been designed to maintain health. However, it can only do that in its optimal state. Among other health benefits, keeping your dog at his optimal weight plays an important role in cancer prevention!

Related articles:
Know Your Dog's Enemies: Overweight
Medical Jargon Explained: Hypo- versus Hyperthyroid
Medical Jargon Explained: Hypo- versus Hyperadrenocorticism
Medical Jargon Explained: Hypo- versus Hyperglycemia


  1. A change in diet can also help prevent tumor growth in your furry friend. Watch what they eat!

  2. Jana,
    Are you in the Veterinary business by any chance. You seem very knowledgeable about this subject. I have been a Veterinary Technician for about 23 years now, the last 15 in Emergency Critical Care. I appreciate your article "The Cancer Antidote that Lies Within: You Will Never Look At Fat The Same Way Again" very much, it was very interesting and eye opening. Sometimes being restricted to Traumas/ Poison/ Critical Diseases,etc. You can become disconnected to new findings in the other areas/specialties of Veterinary medicine. This will give me something interesting to research & discuss at our next staff meeting. Thank you

  3. Dear Geoff. Yes, definitely, a good diet is an important part of it.

    I kept the article with a single focus, because I was hoping that without including any extra information the point might get across.

  4. Hi Corina,

    no, actually, I am a graphic designer and I never aspired to learning any of this stuff. Unfortunately I found myself having no choice in order to get Jasmine well.

    My experience taught me that owner education is the foundation of being able to take care of my dogs' health. I started this blog to raise owner awareness so thing that happened to Jasmine might not have to happen to other dogs.

  5. Great post! The body is so amazing and a dog's systems no less so - people tout "balance" all the time, but it is so serious for optimal health, as you point out. I loved the info on when fat is in balance it's hormones have tumor destruction capabilities. And when it's not, the opposite occurs.

    The understanding that fat is part of the endocrine system and produces its own hormones is important also from the perspective that fat also holds those toxins that are in foods: the pesticides, hormones, antibiotics that are in the feed of the main protein source are passed on in the fatty parts of the meats.

    It's yet another opportunity for cancer to make inroads and another good reason to keep your dog trim:)

  6. Hi Mary! Thank you for re-posting this!

    There are probably a 901 good reasons for keeping our dogs trim! There are also about 2,500,000 articles about it (kind of interesting, every time I check google for the amount of articles on dog obesity it's about 100,000 more than the time before!)

    So many articles and so much information and yet more and more obese dogs. So I'm figuring maybe it will help to give only one reason at the time and hope that one of them will stick.

    At the end, one doesn't need 901 reasons to do something, just 1 that will make them do it! :-)

  7. Very good information. I had no idea fat is part of the endocrine system and produces its own hormones.

    This is just another of so many reasons people really need to watch how much they feed their dog. Exercise is another great way to keep your dog trim and healthy. Helps keeps the owners trim and healthy also.

  8. This is an awesome post Jana! This would be very valuable to have at veterinarian's offices for clients to read. Discussing obesity is something that clients (often, not always of course) get very sensitive about. It can be very uncomfortable to discuss, and I think it would be great having this information come from another pet owner. Just a thought!

  9. Dear Dr. Laci

    Yeah, obesity is a big issue and people don't want to hear about it. That's why I thought listing some very compelling reasons might help. I have some more cooking (I hope) :-)


  10. Fabulous post, Jana! And, of course, perfectly logical. True for humans as right, exercise, get your rest....keep your weight down. Best chance we all have of avoiding cancer...

  11. Yes, logical. Yet we tend to behave to the contrary :-) Quite fascinating too though, no? About what fat actually does?

  12. So glad you wrote about this Jana. I still remember attending the #dogtalk session where Dr. Lorie Huston shared this information. It was a shocker ot me and quite disturbing because Daisy was just starting to get a little chubby. That conversation really changed things for me.
    I'm glad you are spreading the word.

  13. Fat Parents = Fat Kids = Fat Pets
    It is a so sad that we as a country lack so much self control and self discipline. It is bad when we alone suffer for our own lazy choices, but it is a crime when we cause others who do not have the ability to reason to suffer for our lack of self control. I don't think any dog in the wild ever died of cancer. It is a man made problem that stems from lack of self government. I hope people will be encouraged to change through love - for their children and their pets!

  14. You're right, it is amazing how little we're able to let out actions to be guided by reason, even when it concerns our dependents.

    We just can't help being self-indulgent in everything we do.


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