Dogs can get cancer from sniffing each other

Dogs can get cancer simply by sniffing each other, with males most at risk, scientists have found.

A rare cancer called “Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumour” — or CTVT — can jump between creatures when they smell each other’s intimate parts.

The living cancer cells physically “transplant” themselves from one animal to another.

Dogs often sniff each other because it tells them about the other animal’s identity, sex, health, mood, diet and confirms whether they’ve met before, but it can transmit disease.

CTVT is usually transmitted during mating, but sometimes the cancer can affect other areas, such as the nose, mouth, and skin.

Most facial cancers in males

To find out what caused the oddly localized tumors, researchers examined a database and found that 84 percent of facial cancers were in male dogs.

In contrast, genital cases of CTVT occur in approximately equal numbers of male and female dogs.

“We found that a very significant proportion of nasal or oral canine transmissible cancer tumors were in male dogs,” said Dr. Andrea Strakova of the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge, the first author of the article.

“We think this is because males may have a preference for sniffing or licking the female genitals, compared to vice versa.

“The female genital tumors may also be more accessible to sniffing and licking, compared to the male genital tumors.”

Increase in animal import cases

CTVT is now found in dog populations around the world and is the oldest and most prolific cancer line known in nature. Although not common in Britain, the number of cases has increased over the past decade, linked to the importation of animals from abroad.

The disease occurs worldwide, but is usually linked to countries with free-roaming dog populations.

The most common symptoms of oro-nasal cancer are sneezing, snoring, difficulty breathing, nasal deformity, or bloody and other discharge from the nose or mouth.

“While transmissible cancer in dogs can be diagnosed and treated quite easily, vets in the UK may not be familiar with the signs of the disease as it is very rare here,” added Dr. Strakova to it.

Transmissible cancers are also found in Tasmanian devils and in marine bivalves such as mussels and clams.

The researchers say studying this unusually long-lived cancer could also be helpful in understanding how human cancers work.

The findings were published in the journal Veterinary Record.

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