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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli and Cabbage in Dog Cancer Diet?

Updated: March 17th, 2021


Is it safe to give dogs brussels sprouts broccoli and cabbage in dog cancer diets? Demian Dressler, DVM explains why it’s both safe and necessary.

The diet in my book The Dog Cancer Survival Guide is designed specifically for dogs with cancer.  When you read it, you might think some ingredients are kind of strange and wonder whether maybe Dr. Dressler has lost a few marbles along the way.  Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage for dogs?  Seems pretty unnatural … right?

Right you are.  Dogs in nature do not eat necessarily these strange plants.

But dogs with cancer need extra help. They are out of balance, so when we feed them, we need to correct that balance. If we only fed their “natural diet,” it would not be enough.

So why do I recommend Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage?

These veggies are superheroes when it comes to detoxifying the body and helping fight cancer.

The dog cancer diet is critical to your dog’s health, and it can start tonight. Chapter 14 describes this 4th of 5 Steps to Full Spectrum Cancer Care.

Brussels Sprouts Broccoli and Cabbage in Dog Cancer Diet: Why Use Them

These three veggies were chosen for several reasons. Each one has demonstrated health benefits for both cancer and detox support, among many other benefits. Check out these incredible articles on broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage on the World’s Healthiest Foods amazing website.

The nice thing about detoxification support for dogs with cancer is that they ALL can use it. Whether they are going through chemotherapy, radiation, or just on regular prescription drugs, they need extra detox support. Cancer itself is also creating waste products that need to be removed from the body, pronto. And what detoxes the body?

The liver. So let’s look at liver detox.

A Detox Is Not Woo Woo, It’s Foundational to Health

I’m not talking about some vague idea of “detox” or “cleanse” or “purify the body.” A liver detox is not a spiritual event, it’s a (hopefully) daily occurrence that is critical to health.

Let’s look at some science for a moment.  (I look at all treatment options with as little bias as possible, and then choose what makes sense from a scientific point of view.)

What Exactly is a Toxin?

So what are we talking about when we say “detoxification”? Of course, we are getting rid of toxins.

What are toxins? Basically, anything that hurts the body is a toxin. There are toxins that come from outside the body, like insecticides or air pollution, and there are LOTS of toxins that are produced inside the body during normal body processes.

Here are just a few toxins that build up in a normal body minute by minute:

  • Normal cells produce metabolic waste just by doing their normal jobs.
  • Micro-organisms.
  • Contaminants and pollutions from absorbed through the skin or through food, air, and water.
  • Insecticides and pesticides.
  • Food additives, drugs, or alcohol.

The body, in its infinite wisdom, puts all of these toxins in the liver, so that it can detox them away. How? We’ll go over that below.

Now, obviously, most dogs don’t drink or do drugs. But what about the drugs we give them as medicines? Oh, yeah, those can be toxins too, if left in the body. There are a variety of toxic chemicals that can be left by the drugs themselves, or created when they break down. Now, most dogs do fine on chemo and radiation, with little obvious reaction. Still, rarely, these toxins can promote later cancer growth.

Those toxins also end up in the liver to be detoxed away.

But even if a dog isn’t on chemo or radiation, there are a bunch of toxins that every dog with cancer deals with:

  • Cancer gobbles up starch (sugar) and creates a toxin called lactate.
  • Cancer releases acid, which is toxic.
  • Cancer creates inflammation, which results in lots of damaging free radicals.

These toxins also end up in the liver, and if they aren’t detoxed, they can definitely lead to cancer growth later.

How to Detox the Liver without Interfering with Cancer Treatments

So how do we support the liver’s natural detox practices, without interfering with cancer treatments?

There are many, many different ways to do this, but a simple one that you can do at home is with your dog’s diet. And this is where the Brassica plants like Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage come in!

Liver Detoxification has 3 Phases, all of which are designed to make fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble toxins.

Why do we want water-soluble toxins? Because fat-soluble toxins will stay in the body virtually forever, nestled up in fatty little deposits (either in the liver or in other fat stores).

Water-soluble toxins, on the other hand, wash out of the body in urine and bile.

So … one of the liver’s main jobs is to take fat-soluble toxins and change them into water-soluble versions.

Phase 1 Liver Detox

Phase 1 uses nutrients from food to start the change from fat-soluble to water-soluble. There are lots of nutrients needed (one reason why diet is so important for all of us). It’s nice that Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and broccoli all contain good amounts of many of these nutrients.

Weirdly, sometimes the things that happen in Phase 1 actually increase the toxicity of the substance.  Oops!

Phase 2 Liver Detox

Thankfully, the Phase 2 systems catch the bulk of these and inactivate them by using special chemical groups.  And guess what veggies crank up the Phase 2 systems?  You guessed it: Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage! (Also, garlic, another “helpful food” included in my dog cancer diet!)

Phase 2 in the liver adds these chemical groups to increase water solubility.

Phase 3 Liver Detox

Once everything is nice and watery, Phase 3 involves shipping the now-water-soluble toxin to organs of elimination. This rids it from the body!

Most of the water-soluble toxins exit via the kidneys in urine. But the rest exits the liver and goes into the gall bladder, where the bile, another bodily fluid, carries them out into the intestines so they can exit via bowel movements.

Turns out these veggies help out with Phase 3 detox too.  They add bulky fiber (without adding sugar).  This stimulates more release of bile into the intestine. Freely flowing bile is a big part of clearing toxins in Phase 3.

Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage all provide lovely anti-cancer support, AND can be used in all three phases of liver detox.

And that’s why I include these powerhouse veggies in the dog cancer diet!


Dr D

Leave a Comment

  1. Brandon Roberts on November 12, 2019 at 2:04 pm

    I agree with much of this article and came across it while searching for literature on sulforaphane and cancer in dogs. I’m beginning a regime in my dog that has a brain tumor and wanted to chime in with two quick caveats that I recently came across in general and veterinary research.

    First, cooking/steaming broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cabbage breaks down the enzyme myrosinase, which is critical for the conversion of glucoraphinin to sulforaphane, the primary isothiocyanate studied in cruciferous vegetables for their ‘anti-cancer’ effects. If steaming or cooking, the myrosinase in mustard seed is heat protected and can be used as an adjunct to aid in the conversion of glucoraphinin. A mix of cooked and raw cruciferous vegetables may be most advantageous in making all micronutrients bioavailable.

    Cooking these veggies without considering bioavailability of their potent therapeutic compounds might defeat the purpose.

    The article mentions that these vegetables can be used during cancer treatment, but there are two recent papers to consider, which may murk the water. Sulforaphane may decrease T cell activation, which would interfere with T-cell targeted cancer immunotherapies (Linag J, 2019, PMID: 30528536). Another paper out of Cornell University showed that in canine osteosarcoma cell lines, sulforaphane protected these cells against doxorubicin treatment – a common chemotherapy used in canines (Rizzo V.L., 2017, PMID: 27045198).

    So in the case of immunotherapies or highly immune-deficient canines, we may want to proceed with caution.

    Not playing devil’s advocate, I do support the agenda and direction of this article and for skeptics: there is a lot of truth in all this!

  2. Allene Roberts on September 27, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    How do I deliver broccoli Brussel sprouts and cabbage to my dog? Cooked, raw, ground up?

    • Dog Cancer Vet Team on September 30, 2019 at 7:34 am

      Hello Allene,

      Thanks for writing. In Chapter 14 of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide, Dr. D writes that cooking vegetables helps break down the plant matter and “pre-digest” it, so that your dogs are able to better absorb all those essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Cook the vegetables until they’re soft, and then chop or process them in a food processor into very small pieces 🙂

  3. Rita Benson on September 17, 2019 at 6:12 am

    How do you get your dog to eat their vegetables? Broccoli? Brussels sprouts? Cauliflower? My dog sniffs and walks away.
    Also – I’ve always read that you shouldn’t give your dog garlic. So this is confusing to me.
    My Great Pyrenees is 6 and, as far as I know, healthy. I lost a Pyr at age 5 to osteosarcoma, so I’m wanting to be proactive with my girl.

    • Dog Cancer Vet Team on September 18, 2019 at 8:15 am

      Hello Rita,

      Thanks for writing. Our dogs were pretty skeptical when we first started adding broccoli, and Brussel sprouts to their food. We started out by adding a very small amount each day and then increasing it over a two week period. We did notice that they liked being able to pick out the larger chunks or eat their way around them, so chopping everything into small pieces and mixing it in with their food really helped in putting a stop to that 🙂 Also, mixing a bit of bone or chicken broth into your dog’s food can help disguise the smell 😉

      It’s true that garlic in large quantities can be toxic to dogs. But very small amounts can be super-healthy. You can read more on garlic and dosage in this article:

  4. Sara Barton on December 22, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    What about the use of CBD oil for pain relief in dog with Chrondrosarcoma. It seems to be controlling her pain from half grapefruit size rib tumor but does it interfere with apoptosis?

    • Cheri Aristo-Frey on February 6, 2018 at 8:11 am

      My guy has liver cancer and I give him CBD oil 2ce daily…I have seen great quality of life changes in him. He was given a survival rate of 1-4 months and is now at 6 1/2 months…tumor is still present and slowly increasing in size but we just up’d the dosage to try to fight it harder as it is said to POSSIBLY have cancer fighting benefits.

  5. […] Cancer Blog, written by the canine cancer veterinarian who developed Apocaps, has a list of detoxifying foods, as well as a free cancer diet download. The site is a wealth of information on everything from […]

  6. Jen Lee on November 24, 2012 at 4:54 am

    I check back to this page from time to time to see if anyone has answered this question – “Are there any guideline as to how much of these veggies are okay before they might start interfering with thyroid function”?

    I would really love to know the answer if anyone knows. I want to give my dog a broccoli seed extract supplement and am not sure how much to give… I guess since he’s almost 100 pounds I’ll give him 1/2 to 3/4 capsule? That should be enough for some benefit, but maybe not too much to interfere with thyroid function?

    Thanks so much for writing all these blogs though! I really appreciate all the knowledge!

    • Molly Jacobson on September 16, 2019 at 3:17 pm

      This article will be really helpful in answering your question. The bottom line is that using fresh food ensures you are getting all the beneficial compounds in the correct balance, rather than just those in the extract. Meanwhile, it is extremely unlikely that you could get your dog to eat the amounts of cruciferous veggies that would even begin to trigger thyroid issues.

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