Take C.H.A.R.G.E. of Canine Cancer Survey displays how detrimental this disease is to dogs and their owner’s well-being
Gallup recently joined forces with Jaguar Health and the Take C.H.A.R.G.E. (Canine Health And Registry Exchange) coalition to help gain further insight into an under researched problem, the effects of canine cancer on both pets and their owners. Thus, Gallup conducted the first large-scale nationally representative study—The Take C.H.A.R.G.E Canine Cancer Survey—to understand US pet owners’ experiences with canine cancer.
Preliminary evidence from the Take C.H.A.R.G.E. survey revealed that while the prevalence of canine cancer in 2021 (number of total cases) may be slightly lower than for humans (3.4% vs about 5%, respectively), the incidence (number of new cases that year) may be higher (2.8% vs. 0.6%).1 This displays just how rampant this disease is in dogs and how frequently it is affecting them and, ultimately, their owners alike.
This time around, the research focused on the extent of canine cancer, discovering that 30 million Americans had a dog experience cancer in the last 10 years.2 The recent survey also shed light on the impacts of canine cancer on dogs and their owners, the decisions dog owners make regarding the pet’s health and cancer treatment, and areas where enhancements can be made to care and support.
“Often we think about human cancer as we should. And we don't realize how many families are affected by canine cancer . . . it has serious implications for their well-being [and] for their family, and the decisions that they're going to have to make for their dog,” stated Ellyn Maese, PhD, MS, senior research consultant at Gallup, in an interview with dvm360®. “So that’s where Gallup comes in, and partners with Take C.H.A.R.G.E to be able to provide that rich data to tell this story.”
According to Theresa Fossum, DVM, PhD, MS, DACVS, co-chair of the Take C.H.A.R.G.E. Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), in a dvm360® interview, Gallup has a national research panel that is representative of the entire US adult population. It maintains these demographic files and can reach out and scientifically and randomly select people to be in their survey. In this Take C.H.A.R.G.E Canine Cancer Survey, there were a total of 5793 respondents, including 3897 current or past dog parents.
“We asked a number of questions in the survey: What did it feel like to have a dog with cancer? What were they treated with? Things of that nature,” Fossum added. “We really wanted to know what did they know about cancer and dogs? Did they get their questions answered appropriately? How did it affect them or their household? [We were looking to uncover] the feelings and experiences that people had."
How Take C.H.A.R.G.E. fosters a One Health approach
Along with advancing canine cancer research, Take C.H.A.R.G.E. can help advance human oncology research. According to Fossum, there are flaws involving the standard for research approaches, including using mice as our modality to study the efficacy treatments before we move into human clinical trials. “Because our data is usually mouse to man, it doesn’t work,” she said. However, dogs are more predictive models as they suffer from similar cancers to humans and we use similar drugs, so data from the registry is of multifaceted value.
An additional benefit Fossum highlighted was, “The other thing [the registry] is going to do is as we survey the data, because dogs live in the same environment, oftentimes they drink the same water, they eat the same food, we really think we may get early signals of areas where maybe there's a higher cancer rate than there should be because of some environmental factor. And the dogs will probably show that increased incidence of cancer several years before people would.” Thus, this indicates hazardous geographical areas to avoid to potentially save humans and their dog counterparts.
The Take C.H.A.R.G.E survey found that a dog owner’s physical and emotional well-being is highly impacted by their dogs, 90% reporting they feel happier or more relaxed when with their pet. Contrarily, when their dog suffers from cancer it negatively affects their well-being, 58% indicating they felt depressed, and 63% felt significantly stressed during the experience. Approximately 1 in 3 dog owners said having a pet with cancer had a heavy negative impact on their quality of life.2
According to Maese, along with these discoveries, it’s important to note that 68% of pet owners decide not to treat their pet with cancer because of different factors such as age, treatment cost, and treatment side effects.1 “What people are dealing with, [when it comes to their well-being], it's not just a treatment experience, but they're also choosing to have to not treat their dog and what the implications of that are,” she said. “Either way they go, a majority are experiencing a lot of stress, and a lot of times they're feeling down and depressed, there's really significant experiences and impacts on quality of life.”
Fossum explained that this displays that the veterinary community can provide more information to pet parents regarding canine cancer to better prepare them and ensure their well-being doesn’t suffer as greatly. Maese noted, “There can be this tendency towards information overload, and I think veterinarians really try to avoid that. Yet . . . people who [have a dog with cancer] are not getting enough information, they're reporting, they don't really know what to expect. They don't know how treatments are, what the options are for treatments, and they don't know how things are going to affect their job when they're having to go through these treatments and these processes. there's a need for greater information . . . and more support for families going through this.”
According to both Fossum and Maese, consistent information sources of data are needed surrounding canine cancer to guide veterinary professionals, pet owners, and pharmaceutical communities.
“This [Take C.H.A.R.G.E of Canine Cancer] Survey is amazing and groundbreaking in the ability to kind of tell this story, but we need more data. That’s one of the things that this this data really shows us is we don't have enough information on our side to think about not only what can veterinarians do, what are the treatment options, what are the concerns and things we need to address in terms of side effects and things like that, but really even just characterizing the problem. We're at that basic level right now, where we just need a system that tracks what's going on with dogs and their families.”
This is where Take C.H.A.R.G.E comes into play, shared Fossum. “We need to increase our number of animals into the registry, so that we can really start to get more information about the signalment of these animals, what types of cancers they are getting. The earlier we can diagnose cancer in dogs, just like people, generally, the better the treatment is going to be . . . a lot of it is just getting the information we need, because this has never been done before. We've never in at least in the US, we've never tried to look nationally at cancer dogs.”
Therefore, to further gain insights and advance canine oncology research and treatment, it’s imperative that veterinarians opt in to the Take C.H.A.R.G.E. database so it can access dogs’ records, and dog owners can help the cause by uploading records on the Take C.H.A.R.G.E. website.
Gallup survey of dog owners. Jaguar Health Canine Cancer: Take C.H.A.R.G.E. Accessed May 24, 2022. https://takechargeregistry.com/about
Clouet B, Maese E. Taking charge of canine cancer. Gallup. August 10, 2022. Accessed August 18, 2022. https://www.gallup.com/analytics/395981/taking-charge-canine-cancer.aspx