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

Calcium Tablets May Contain Carcinogenic Lead

Updated: December 17th, 2019

Does calcium matter to a dog with cancer?   How about carcinogenic lead?

Many dog lovers are feeding their dog The Dog Cancer Diet in The Guide, with very good results.  A dog with cancer has a unique metabolism that is totally different from a dog with no cancer.

With this in mind, it is clear that they should be on a totally different diet.  By changing what a dog with cancer eats, we can get an edge on canine cancer.

Dogs need calcium from their diet. So, a dog fighting cancer needs to have a guardian who is aware of what kind of calcium to give, and whether there are any dangers to avoid.

I was recently talking to Mitch who is taking care of his dog Raleigh.  Raleigh was fighting recurring mast cell tumors and was forced to have two surgeries to remove them.

Happily, since starting Apocaps and the Dog Cancer Diet in the Guide, Raleigh has not had any new tumors and is enjoying his life.

Mitch was inquiring about the form of calcium to give his dog.  After hanging up, I thought I should get some information together for everyone.

In the past, we have used oyster shell calcium.  Well, no more.

Recent research shows that many calcium supplements may have unacceptably high lead levels.

Why does this matter?

Well, low long term lead exposure can cause brain problems that interfere with learning and can affect moods. On top of this, it can affect fertility, hearing, digestion, the bones, the heart, the kidneys and more. Here is a good reference for more information.

In dogs with cancer, we want to avoid lead for another reason.  Lead is classified as a probable carcinogen. Exposing a dog with cancer to carcinogens very likely makes the cancer worse and more difficult to treat.

Clearly, avoiding lead is a good idea.

It has been shown that  two thirds of 136 calcium supplements did not meet the 1999 California standards for acceptable lead levels.

So how do we deal with this information?

Calcium has a lot of different forms.  The bottom line is that the best one you can easily buy is  probably calcium citrate. A paper showed that common calcium citrate supplements did not significantly increase lead levels.

So, instead of bone meal or oyster shell calcium, the new recommendation for dogs with cancer is calcium citrate.

The amount of calcium needed for older dogs is about 40-50 mg per pound daily.  For a 40 lb dog, this is about 1600 mg daily.  If we assume that this dog gets about half of this amount in a home made diet without adding chicken necks, we need to supplement with about 800 mg of calcium.

To get this amount, we need to give a 40 lb dog about 1 and 1/2  Citracal Maximum caplets daily.

If chicken necks are added according to the recipe in The Guide, this is not necessary.  A chicken neck weighs about 2 ounces, which provides 900 mg of calcium.  Therefore, two necks daily is adequate for each 40 lbs of body weight.


Dr D

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  1. Lluna & Moe on November 29, 2011 at 5:18 am


    I just wanted to make a point to the fact that the PDF file for the cancer diet, still recommends giving oyster shell calcium… and that’s what I was giving to my dog until today, I got to the page on the Dog cancer survival guide where it says not to give it, and I was like… what??!! anyway, that should be fixed, since it’s misleading. Thanks.

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on December 4, 2011 at 4:34 pm

      Thanks Lluna and Moe
      Dr D

  2. lynda warringer rd,ld on September 23, 2011 at 5:50 am

    Dr. Dressler,
    I bought your book and found it to be the best nutrition source available for dogs.
    sammy my 9yo, 80 lb black lab has melanoma of the nail/toe. it was amputated back in may but spread to nearby lumph node which was removed the next day.
    the cancer specialist found a very small spot on the lung. sammy had the 4 vaccines and a 2nd xray showed the small spot to be gone and 3 even small spots to appear. my holistic vet had sammy on neoplasene 1 dropper q12hrs
    he tolerated well. The oncolgist has suggested carboplatin to start in 2 weeks; I have consented and signed up for to start in 2wks. Should I dc the neoplasene? The nutrition PHD at the oncologist center said it could spread the cancer. My holistic vet said that it is very unlikely and there is no scientific lititure to support that info. The phd nutritionist also disagrees with the cottage cheese cancer diet, your diet, my holistic vets diet and I am confused on what to do. I am a register dietitian OF 30 yrs for people and in the past year researched dog nutrition. i made the appt with the nutritionist phd to get a specific diet for melanoma cancer with and without chemo. The appt that was $300 provided me with text book info and a handout with no references. The special diet for sammy will not be ready until next week. she use’s the recommended diets obtained from BALANCE IT. She did say that the diet will be ~ 50% veggies & 50% meat, chx or fish. the rest will be provided with supplements. All this said she is to get back to me by e-mail next week. 1. I really need to know how to determine the ca# & vitamin d3 ratio which i could not get an answer for a daily recommend dose for Sammy. 2. If i use 50% non starchy vegetables and no starchy vegs, & no fruit like she rx. Will the calorie content be too low? Will a lot of nutrients including ca#, phos and magnesium be inaccessible b/c of high fiber content? I did decided to stop the neoplasene. FYI: My sons yellow lab that i have inherited since her oral melanoma cancer of 2 years is still doing good. My holistic vet debulked it 2 years ago and she has been maintained on oral doses until recently, have started injection at the tumor site. The tumor has started to grow on the other side of her lower jaw and the original tumor site appears mostly gone and fairly heathy tissue. Any way she has done well for the past 2 years as my vet went about this tx very slowly. Both dogs have excellent energy & appetite 1/2 homemade and 1/2 NOW DOG FOOD. I order the spots stew but was not delivered so i found the NOW diet as close to it. I plan to go to all home made as soon as the best diet can be determined for Sam and Brinkley.

    Thank-you for any input you can provide,
    lynda warringer

    • DemianDressler on September 28, 2011 at 5:13 pm

      Dear Lynda,
      well, you have different opinions and you are left in the driver’s seat! Is this person a veterinarian? If the diet is balanced and complete you should be okay with the vitamins and minerals. The carb restriction takes precedence over the binding issue. You can use a balanced (maintenance doses) multivitamin for dogs given several hours apart from the food to try to decrease the binding. There is little formal evidence on Neoplasene being efficacious, but I can tell you it does indeed harm cancer cells. There is also no formal evidence it spreads cancers (first time I’ve heard that one).Don’t forget the other steps too- apocaps, antimetastatics, etc…

  3. DemianDressler on August 8, 2011 at 12:23 am

    Dear Lynda
    Use the nutritionist’s guidance on this for the specifics. If you want to add some of the cancer diet, work with the nutritionist on the protein reduction to see if he/she would be open to reconsidering the cottage cheese/steel cut oats. I would start kicking up the krill oil and add Azodyl and Epikatin.
    Dr D

  4. Lynda on August 7, 2011 at 4:38 am

    I did follow your advice, Dr. D—now he’s on a kidney diet due to poor levels. He loves it, but I now have a call into a nutritionist to see if we can move somewhere in the middle as last checked, his levels were normal. Do you have any suggestions for dog with mild kidney disease and mast cell as far as diet is concerned? They are so polar opposite. I won’t do anything w/o checking w/his oncologist—she is very open-minded and looking into whether or not we can add back in the Apocaps—
    Despite his many problems, he’s doing great, quality-wise, which I thank you for helping me keep in mind—

  5. Lynda on July 3, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Hi Dr. D—The oncologist and integrative vet (Immuno-2865) were wary of Vitamin D (they ok’d powdered calcium citrate- 1 teaspoon = 420 grams per day). He eats roughly 1/2 and 1/2 homemade and Taste of the Wild or grain-free canned food, so they were equally worried about over supplementing the calcium since they knew it to be in the dry food. I have a call in to the oncologist to see why (they are both amazing doctors and have been very accessible— answered all of our questions, even dull ones) —also, another nutritionist recommended cutting the carbs (cottage cheese and oatmeal/rice), but I like keeping them as he seems to like them—any thoughts on that? Lots of cooks in this kitchen—
    Many thanks,

    • DemianDressler on July 6, 2011 at 2:08 pm

      Dear Lyndia,
      I think you should always take the advice of the person with hands on the dog.

  6. Lynda on June 18, 2011 at 7:56 am

    I’ve rejected my nutritionist’s plan for food for my mast cell chemo (Vinblastine and doing great) pit mix. He likes the Dressler diet better and thankfully he has been added to an integrative study Apocaps as well as their immune support supplement they are studying. Problem is both the oncologist and the integrative vet don’t want him taking calcium. I worry about him choking on it if I cook it and can’t get anyone to grind them— how exactly do I get this into him safely?
    Thanks! (…and do you see any problems with apples? It’s the easiest way to pill him, just tuck and toss)

    • DemianDressler on June 29, 2011 at 6:43 pm

      Dear Lynda,
      I was wondering why the recommendation against the proper form of calcium? You can use a blender or a coffee grinder or a food processor. A little apple once or twice a week is okay, but take it easy- simple sugars are cancer’s favorite food..
      Dr D

  7. Jean on June 22, 2010 at 6:02 am

    Regarding the cancer diet that’s so well described in your book . . . can I feed my other dog that doesn’t have cancer the same, general diet from the base mixture (minus the cancer specific supplements and higher amounts of fish oil, etc.., of course)?


  8. Jean on June 21, 2010 at 5:44 am

    So, no bone meal powder either? Ugh. I just bought some from Whole Foods. Does that also have a potential lead issue? I take a product called Bone Up. Could I possible give my dog the same product. It’s calcium comes from MCHA (Microscrystalline Hydroxyapatite) from free-range Australian calves. Or, in you opinion, is just regular, old CitraCal just as good?

    Regarding the chicken necks, can you please clarify how these should be prepared for a dog with cancer? I always hear about giving raw chicken necks to dogs. But, I don’t ever remember hearing that it’s okay to give cooked chicken necks to dogs. I know that dogs with cancer should not be given raw meat because their immune systems are already compromised. So, I assumed that the necks should be cooked. But, can’t the bones in the necks be dangerous if they’re cooked. Please clarify. I’m happy to feed these to her once I know how to prepare them properly for her.

    Oh, one more question . . if I may. I made my first, small batch of food using the dog cancer diet in your book and I was reluctant to put the oatmeal in because of the carbohydrate content. Do I have to use the oatmeal? Is there any real benefit to the dog? Or, can I leave it out?


  9. susandill on June 19, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    dear dr d. i bought your book recently and have been receioving the emails. my dog winston had lymphoma, he was 4 i thought he had a good fighting chance as he was so young. the vet found it upon a routine teeth cleaning. he took a biopsy and it came back cancer we immediately took him to the oncologist we started the chemo, i was against it as i would not do that to myself but did not know an alternative. the first treatment was okay. the 2nd was really really bad he was sick both ends for about 3 days and looked like death warmed over. i searched the internet.and bought several things from a site called cancer i spent about 1,000 dollars. i also got the k9 immunity products 2 of them and started them also and also gave fish oil and primrose and acidocipholous. vit c and b and started to cook all organic for him we already ate organic for ourselves and a. i bought the evo for him for the past year before that it was solid gold. i thought that he ate good. but maybe it was the shots he got them every year. i have researched all that, aand that is bad plus the lady we got him from gave shots early. we got the 2 boys at five weeks from her. now i know that is bad. i just hope that his brother henry is okay as the vets all say you cannot do any tessst to see cancer till it rears its uglly head , well by then its too late. so henry takes the k9 and i ordered the opocaps for winston but he never got to take them, i found your book and info to late. we took him to the holistic vet that we switched too after the onco. she saw him every four weeks, she did acupuncture. he did not do well on it i think i reaad it online at your site while i was waiting for your book , that some dogs react the opposite and it takes a few days for them to get over it well that was winston. i spent more time with him, he loved to sit out back and watch the fish. and play ball. and go for a ride in the car. so i did that with him he lived 6 mos. the vet said 2 to 6 wks. the weekend of mothersday we took him to the vet that fri. she said he was suffering he was bad and much pain we needed to put him down, he kept scratching the door to go home it was awful. i never wanted to do that i thought he would pass at home she said it would not be right. he was in pain, he would collapse and it would not be pretty. well i stayed with him my hubby said we should not, but i haad to do it for winston, i held him in my arms and tried not to cry, i felt the lilfe force leave him and i broke, it is so hard and it is not fair. i do not lunderstand if there is a loving god why would he make animals for us to love so we can lose them before we die.i mean birds live longer than people. anyway the reason i wrote to you, is about winstons brother henry i bought the apopcaps for winston but he bever got to use them it is good to give to henry since he does not have cancer.

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