Considering the Risks: X-Rays, Canine Infertility and Cancer

There is growing concern about infertility and cancer due to cumulative radiation when combined with diagnostic x-rays a dog may need over his lifetime.

According to radiologyinfo.org, radiography of the lower G.I. tract in an adult human exposes them to the same amount of radiation that would be naturally absorbed over a 3 year period. The carefully worded caveat implies it’s no big deal. But I learned that the lifetime risk of fatal cancer from that single exposure is “low” compared to a CT scan which is “moderate.” While you’re thinking about the implications to your own longevity, let me give you another jolt.

A mastiff having a hip or abdominal x-ray would get a 6 year dose of radiation—a Corgi about a 25 year dose! If a year of our life is roughly equivalent to 7 years in a dog, does that mean an x-ray is 7 times more dangerous for your dog than for you?

I’m neither a veterinarian nor a mathematician so you figure it out.

I fully acknowledge the miracles of medical science but the bottom line is that we are pretty much just cash on a conveyer belt moving through the medical system. Here’s a real-life example. I had life-saving lung surgery and was in the hospital for 6 weeks. I was “out of it” for the first month but one morning two young technicians came in with the x-ray machine. As they pulled me up and jammed the cold x-ray plate behind my back I suddenly realized that day after day I’d seen the sun come up while going through that same procedure. “Who ordered this?” I asked. The one who could talk looked at the clipboard and said she didn’t know; that it was just “orders”. I told them to not to come back until one of my doctors explained why I needed daily chest x-rays. No one ever confessed.

Human statistics downplay the cancer-radiation risk. Tell it to the survivors of the Fukushima meltdown in Japan in a few more years. They are at high risk for thyroid cancer. Sure it was an extremely high exposure—and that brings me to organ shielding for your dogs!! The x-ray has to be strong enough to reveal bone and joint density so it doesn’t take a radiologist to figure out that the ovaries and testicles receive a whopping dose.

Just because something “is” doesn’t mean it should continue to be. I googled for organ shielding in animals and there’s nothing! Well, nothing except a couple of old articles where I demanded radiograph shielding for dogs. While human reproductive organs are further removed from the other internal organs, lungs, and heart, the canine reproductive system is by virtue of proximity, nearly impossible to avoid even for a super-conscientious veterinary technician. And the dog can’t say “hey watch what you’re doing!”

Speaking of hip x-rays, put this under your thinking cap. By the late 70s, many veterinarians were uncomfortable with the highly promoted theories that led thousands of dogs down the primrose path to the x-ray machine. When Gerry Schnelle, DVM (credited with the discovery of hip dysplasia in 1937) attempted to cite the disappointing Swedish CHD study results, he was hushed up and ultimately, he voluntarily resigned from the OFA board.

Well before the end of the 20th century, most long-time breeders began to see that hip x-rays weren’t panning out. Sad to say, part of the statistical problem was a result of dishonest breeders who presented dogs that “glow in the dark” due to OFA’s long refusal to require permanent I.D. For two decades I publically derided Dr. Corley for failure to require permanent I.D. and finally, he was replaced by Eddie Duzak, a real dog man who “gets it.”

Today we have a whole new crop of freshly educated animal doctors, many of whom will disregard the cumulative effects of radiation in favor of their bottom line. Beaming powerful radiation directly at the reproductive organs troubles them not at all. In fact, given the animal rights propaganda permeating vet schools today, they may turn the power up a notch in hopes “this one won’t contribute to the overpopulation problem”!

I hope this has given you a better perspective on elective X-rays so that you can make informed decisions about radiation risks. For more information search online for “TheDogPlace.org x-ray radiation”. 

  • Barbara “BJ” Andrews is the breeder of over 300 AKC Champions including over a dozen All-Time record holders. She is the author of 8 breed books and founder of 3 AKC Breed Clubs. In 1998 she launched the world’s first public website (TheDogPlace.org) followed by TheDogPress.com and TheJudgesPlace.com which, as part of the NetPlaces Network, serves all facets of dog ownership and exhibition. She and husband Bill pioneered the Akita, Miniature Bull Terrier, and Toy Fox Terrier to AKC recognition and BJ served on the board of each Parent Club. She has judged in England and AKC Specialty Sweeps. She was awarded UKC All Breeds approval but has never applied for an AKC judges license because it could interfere with objective reporting on the sport.

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