How Badly Do We Need to Know?
Would you knowingly expose your puppies to a known cancer-causing agent? Would you trust claims that this product is safe for use in puppies despite NO research supporting this claim?
Would you use it just because other breeders have done so for years despite increasing cancer rates in their breeds? Finally, would you routinely expose your puppies to this risk just so you would worry less about short-term concerns even if the long-term consequences might include higher risk of early and lifetime cancer? Most breeders would adamantly deny the use of any known cancer-causing product that has not been proven safe for puppies. Yet many do it regularly.
How do I know that? Because more and more breeders are x-raying their pregnant bitches prior to whelp to get a puppy count. I’m nearly 60 years old, well past my child-bearing years, and I can’t get a dental x-ray without affirming that I am not pregnant AND wearing a lead apron. My teeth can’t be casually x-rayed for fear that I might be pregnant yet we routinely and directly irradiate fetal puppies.
Present Research on Prenatal X-rays in Dogs
Despite their growing use by breeders and vets, there is NO research showing prenatal x-rays are safe in dogs and there is a small body of research showing they increase rates of both early and lifetime cancers, including lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma. Might there be a correlation between x-raying fetal puppies and the growing cancer rate in so many of our breeds? Let’s look at a recently published summary of the findings in irradiated dogs:
The offspring of 1,343 pregnant Beagle dogs irradiated with a single dose of 0.16 or 0.81 Gy on days 8, 28, or 55 after breeding and 2, 70, and 365 days postpartum… had a significant increase in their incidence of benign and malignant neoplasms, including fatal malignancies at young ages and during their lifetime. Statistically significant increases in the risk of lymphoma were seen in the beagles irradiated at 55 days postcoitus and significant increases of hemangiosarcomas occurred at 8 and 55 days postcoitus, respectively… .
Early cancers, lifetime cancers, lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma! Any of those sound familiar? Now grant you, 0.16 Gys (grays) is more than a typical puppy-count x-ray but even one pelvic x-ray dramatically increases the radiation a pregnant dog experiences over the normal radiation she gets from her environment, such as from the sun and radon.
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The Need for More Safety Research on Prenatal X-rays
Doing research to confirm the safety of prenatal x-rays in dogs would not be difficult. Isn’t it worth knowing? Shouldn’t we demand proof that this commonly-done practice is safe before we casually expose our fetal pups to it? Isn’t this especially important since we know that it takes years for the effects of low-level irradiation to begin to show? Because of this lag time, without well designed research studies, dog breeders and owners will struggle to link fetal x-rays to long-term outcomes.
This is not only an unpopular position, it is one that triggers many breeders’ anger, although I don’t know why. In so many other instances, we vigorously protect our puppies and their moms from chemicals, medications, toxins and more. We demand pharmaceutical companies prove their products are safe before we use them and we aggressively follow Internet claims of injury or death from these products. We require dog food companies pass stringent standards before we use their food. We avoid products made in China for fear of unsafe ingredients. We puppy proof our homes and yards to keep our puppies safe.
Why are we not turning the same level of scrutiny on fetal x-rays? Why aren’t we insisting this procedure be proven safe before we risk it? I’m not from Missouri but in this case I live in the “Show Me” state! Isn’t reducing cancer rates in our dogs everyone’s goal?
In Part 2 of this blog, I present our personal results regarding prenatal x-rays, including what happened when we stopped routinely using them!
Linet MS, Kim KP and Rajaraman P. 2009. Children’s exposure to diagnostic medical radiation and cancer risk: epidemiologic and dosimetric considerations. Pediatric Radiology, Vol 39, Suppl 1:S4-26.
Linet, MS, TL Slovos, et al. 2012. Cancer risks associated with external radiation from diagnostic imaging procedures. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. Vol 62, Iss 2, pages 75–100.
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