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How to Feed Your Dog to Help Avoid Malignancy

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker



Hairless Sphynx Cats Are Also Copycats
  • More dogs, including younger pets, are being diagnosed with cancer today
  • Cancer symptoms in dogs are also seen in many other disorders and require prompt veterinary attention
  • To help your dog avoid cancer, it’s important to feed an anti-inflammatory, low glycemic diet of real, whole foods, along with beneficial add-ins and supplements
  • Other important steps you can take include carefully considering the timing of sterilization, keeping your dog lean and fit, and reducing exposure to toxins and unnecessary vaccines



Veterinarians are seeing more cancer in dogs — including younger dogs — than ever before in our history. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), approximately 1 in 4 dogs will develop neoplasia at some point in their lives, and almost half of dogs over the age of 10 will develop cancer.1

Dogs can develop cancer almost anywhere in the body, which is why the symptoms vary depending on the tissues and organs involved and the severity of the disease. Make an appointment with your veterinarian if your dog displays one or more of the following 10 warning signs of cancer:2

1.Unusual swellings that don't go away or that grow — The best way to discover lumps, bumps or swelling on your dog is to pet him.

2.Sores that won't heal — Nonhealing sores can be a sign of infection or cancer and should be evaluated by your veterinarian.

3.Weight loss — Illness could be the reason your pet is losing weight but isn't on a diet.

4.Loss of appetite — Reluctance or refusal to eat is another sign of possible illness.

5.Bleeding or discharge — Bleeding can occur for a number of reasons, most of which signal a problem. Unexplained vomiting and diarrhea are considered abnormal discharges, as well.

6.Offensive smell — An unpleasant odor is a common sign of tumors of the anus, mouth, or nose.

7.Difficulty eating or swallowing — This is a common sign of cancers of the mouth or neck.

8.Reluctance to exercise or low energy level — This is often one of the first signs that a dog isn't feeling well.

9.Persistent lameness — There can be many causes of lameness, including nerve, muscle, or bone cancer.

10.Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating — These symptoms should be evaluated by your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Many of these symptoms also occur with other disorders and diseases, but regardless, an animal showing any of these signs needs prompt veterinary attention. As with any disease, the earlier your dog is diagnosed, the better the chances of a positive outcome.

Cancer-Fighting Foods for Dogs

To help your canine companion avoid cancer, it's important to feed an anti-inflammatory diet. Anything that creates or promotes inflammation in the body increases the risk for cancer. Current research suggests cancer is actually a chronic inflammatory disease, fueled by carbohydrates (aka sugar). The inflammatory process creates an environment in which abnormal cells proliferate.

Cancer cells require the glucose in carbohydrates to grow and multiply, so you want to eliminate that cancer energy source. Carbs to remove from your pet's diet include processed grains, fruits with fructose, and starchy vegetables like potatoes.

Keep in mind that 99% of dry pet food ("fast food") contains some form of potentially carcinogenic, highly processed starch. During the cooking process, carbohydrates interact with protein (the Maillard reaction) which in turn create advanced glycation end products (AGEs) which are known carcinogens.

Even the novel "keto kibbles" have been extruded at high temperatures, creating these nasty by-products that are terrible for animals trying to avoid or address cancer.

The correlation between consuming fast foods and cancer has been established in humans,3 and my advice is to incorporate as much fresh, unprocessed, "real" food into your entire family's diet as you can afford. Common sense tells us we shouldn't raise any of our family members on ultra-processed, highly refined diets.

CANWI (the nonprofit research organization I co-founded to conduct unbiased university-based pet food research) funded the first study of its kind evaluating the levels of AGEs in raw, canned and kibble diets. The results will be published in the upcoming months and will definitely get the pet food industry buzzing about the level of carcinogens found in ultra-processed pet foods.

Other sources of toxic contaminants that interfere with your pet's immunologic and metabolic wellbeing are often found in canned and kibble food, including heavy metals, glyphosate residues and mycotoxins.

Cancer cells generally can't use dietary fats for energy, so high amounts of good quality fats are nutritionally beneficial for dogs fighting cancer, along with a reduced amount of protein and minimal starch.

Another major contributor to inflammatory conditions is a diet too high in omega-6 fatty acids and too low in omega-3s. Omega-6s increase inflammation while the omega-3s do the reverse. Processed pet food is typically loaded with omega-6 fatty acids and deficient in clean sources of ocean-derived omega-3s.

A healthy diet for your dog — one that is anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer — consists of real, whole foods, preferably raw or gently cooked. It should include high-quality protein (muscle meat and organs), and low glycemic, brightly colored veggies that provide important antioxidants, fiber and polyphenols.

It should also include high amounts of animal fat, high levels of EPA and DHA (omega-3 fatty acids), and a few fresh cut, low glycemic veggies. This species-specific diet is high in moisture content and contains no grains, potatoes, legumes or tapioca.

It's critical that your pet's diet is nutritionally balanced to not just meet minimal nutrient requirements, but include optimal levels of vitamins and minerals (including vitamins D, E, A, and zinc and selenium), which means if you are preparing your pet's food at home you need to follow a recipe that ensures nutritional adequacy. Don't guess.

Certain supplements and add-ins can also be very beneficial to enhance immune function, including:


Super green foods

Medicinal mushrooms


Digestive enzymes



Fermented vegetables

Additional Steps You Can Take to Help Your Dog Avoid Cancer

Especially if your dog is a large or giant breed, hold off neutering or spaying until the age of 18 months to 2 years — Studies have linked spaying and neutering to increasing cancer rates in dogs. Even better, investigate alternative ways to sterilize your pet without upsetting his or her important hormone balance.

Don't allow her to become overweight — Studies show that restricting the number of calories an animal eats prevents and/or delays the progression of tumor development across species. Fewer calories cause the cells of the body to block tumor growth, whereas too many calories can lead to obesity, and obesity is closely linked to increased cancer risk in humans.

There is a connection between too much glucose, increased insulin sensitivity, inflammation, and oxidative stress — all factors in obesity — and cancer. It's important to remember that fat doesn't just sit on your pet's body harmlessly. It produces inflammation that can promote tumor development.

Reduce or eliminate his exposure to toxins — These include chemical pesticides like flea and tick preventives, lawn chemicals (weed killers, herbicides, etc.), tobacco smoke, flame-retardants, household cleaners, and air scenting products like candles and plug-ins. Because we live in a toxic world and avoiding all chemical exposure is nearly impossible, I also suggest offering a periodic detoxification protocol to your pet.

Refuse unnecessary vaccinations — Vaccine protocols should be tailored to minimize risk and maximize protection, taking into account the breed, background, nutritional status, lifestyle, and overall vitality of the pet. Titer testing is a responsible way to ensure your canine companion has adequate immunity.