Pet owners: The #1 killer of dogs and cats is cancer. In fact, almost half of pets develop tumors during their lives, and nearly half of all older dogs and one-third of older cats will die of cancer. So, here are three ways to help cut your pet’s cancer risk:

  • Have them spayed or neutered. Experts say that female dogs should be spayed before they first go into “heat” – which happens after they’re six months old. In fact, early spaying prevents nearly 100 percent of breast tumors. Male dogs should be neutered before they’re one year old, because neutering limits their exposure to testosterone – which reduces their cancer risk.

  • Keep your pet at a healthy weight. Obesity is just as dangerous for pets as it is for people, because fat damages DNA and leads to cancer. In female dogs, body fat also increases the risk of uterine and ovarian cancers. Healthy dogs and cats should have a slight narrowing at the waist. One quick way to tell if your pet is overweight: Press lightly on their sides. If you can’t easily feel their ribs, reduce their weight.

  • Avoid certain foods. Ingredients like meat by-products, synthetic preservatives, and soy are hard for pets to digest – which can damage their stomachs and intestines. That’s why it’s important to read the ingredients on the label. Nutritionist Dr. Marion Nestle says a lot of pet foods are now fortified with cancer-fighting antioxidants – like vitamins C and E. The first three ingredients are the most important, and should include beef, chicken, turkey, venison, duck, salmon or lamb, as well as flaxseed oil, eggs, rice, fruits and vegetables.