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

Heterocyclic Amines in the News

Updated: October 25th, 2019

I’m happy to report a news article highlighting one of the subjects, carcinogenic heterocyclic amines, discussed in the Guide.

The Mercola article discussed a publication about finding this substance, PhIP, in dog fur (as an aside, not all dogs have fur, as some have hair, but that is a different story!).  PhIP is in a class of carcinogens that got a quick splash of media attention in the seventies, and then…disappeared.

Dog cancer & heterocyclic amines

Will heterocyclic amines affect my dog’s cancer?

This class of carcinogens, the heterocyclic amines (HCA’s), is formed upon heating protein, like that found in red meat and fish, to temperatures around 398 F.  The heterocyclic amines as a group are known carcinogens to lab animals as well as to people.


So the question becomes what to do with this information?  Do we stop cooking food?

There are several steps that can be taken. First, for dogs with cancer, we want to cook the food at lower temperatures than one might normally. Instructions for this are in the Dog Cancer Diet pdf at the top of this page.  Common ways of doing this are by steaming or braising food. We don’t want to feed raw meats, in general, to dogs with cancer.  The reason for this is that they usually have weakened immune function, particularly if the cancer is large or has metastasized.  Malignant cancers suppress the immune system. And the meats that are normally available do have some microbes in them which can occasionally be problematic for a weakened immune system.

The second step is to combine the food with cancer-fighting additions. Some include brassica (cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts), garlic, mung beans, shitake mushrooms, fresh green herbs, and so on. These should also be cooked at low heat or in some cases can be blended into a puree which is combined with the meat and usually is taken well by the dog.

Third, try to avoid vegetable or corn oil.  This is rich in inflammation-producing omega-6 fatty acids, which contribute to cancer-promoting effects in the body. Olive oil and coconut oil are good alternatives.

Finally, what if home cooking is not an option?  Many guardians find that they can cook some of their dog’s food, but the entire amount is too costly or time consuming. In these cases, we can pick the second best option, which is to use some commercial dog food that is more friendly to the canine cancer patient. Some examples are Honest Kitchen, Orijen, Solid Gold, Evo, Halo, and the like.

So remember, try to keep those food temperatures down and reduce carcinogen exposure for your  loved pet!


Dr D



Leave a Comment

  1. Ann M. McHugh on June 7, 2013 at 2:32 am

    I have been cooking a ‘meatloaf’ for my dogs, having started while my dear Andie was unsuccessfully fighting stomach cancer. It contains hamburger, dark green veggies like green bean, broccoli, kale, etc) lentils, brown rice, oatmeal, eggs( no shells), ground flaxseed, and sunflower oil. All 8 dogs get 1/4 cup daily which allows me to reduce the amount of high quality kibble they get. It is high quality from a smaller independent company but still kibble of which I grow more suspicious every day no matter what brand. I was concerned about the temperature 350 degrees that the ‘meatloaf’ is cooked at. I then tested the internal temp of the loaves ( I make 14 or more individual loaves every 2-3 weeks, keeping them frozen until needed) the internal temperature was just 160 degrees at the end of the 45 min of baking which made me feel a whole lot better. I may switch to coconut oil as I am a believer in its benefits. My dogs love the ‘meatloaf’, their coats are beautiful, they are all healthy! and as I said they love it. I would suggest that checking the internal temperatures of food we prepare for our dogs might ease fears that we are exposing them to HCA’s. I do wish that study was continued and expanded although I have been suspicious of the high temperatures used in making commercial dog food for a long time.

  2. Nancy on June 4, 2013 at 6:06 am

    Garlic for dogs?? My vet says that’s a big NO-NO, even garlic powder. Of course most folks know that about onions for dogs too…big NO-NO. Either I’ve been misinformed by my vet (who advocates Purina food, which is my NO-NO) or the information here is correct. Which is it?

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