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

Diet for Dogs With Mast Cell Tumors

Updated: December 6th, 2019


Today’s post will likely be met with some skepticism from those immersed (and confined) to our Western medical approach.  So if this is your framework, please keep an open mind.  You will be pleased to know that the information here is taken from little known, but still Western, data banks.

I have recently been looking into some ways of decreasing some of the horrible effects of severe mast cell tumors in dogs.  Lots of talk these days about Palladia, but there is more you can do!

As many of you are well aware, these cancers are able to release, on an intermittent basis, large amounts of chemical signals that produce nasty effects on the body.  There are many different ones, and to avoid being utterly dull, here are just a few:  histamine, substance P, and heparin.

The one which we have traditionally focused on is histamine.  Histamine is the same stuff that our bodies, and those of our canine companions, release during an allergic reaction.

It does bad things like create swelling, redness, pain, blood pressure changes, vomiting, loss of appetite, acid stomach, and more.

Much of the sickness that dogs afflicted with mast cell tumors suffer from is caused by histamine excess.

Some focus has been placed on blocking the effects of histamine with various medications.  However, very little has been placed on cutting off the body’s supply of histamine.

This is an intriguing and quite novel approach to dealing with histamine excess, and to my knowledge has not been tried in dogs.   So here’s the info…give it a try, see if it helps the dog you love, and let our community know!

The basic story is you cut out foods that eventually end up increasing active histamine levels,  by hook or by crook.  Now, most of you know that carbohydrate restriction is important is helping with cancer generally.  I discuss details of the dog cancer diet at length in the e-book, The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

For more helpful tools and information, get a copy of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Here’s a new twist for those caring for a dog with a mast cell tumor diagnosis, especially the more aggressive ones (Grade 2 and 3).

Turns out there is some cutting edge new research going on in human medicine about ways to combat digestive upset, depression, anxiety, allergies, asthma, and more.  Many cases of these syndromes involve excessive histamine effects in the body.  There are very few diseases like mast cell tumors in people, but we humans do suffer from a close relative of mast cell tumors called systemic mastocytosis.

Anyway, those in the inner circle promote cutting off the wellspring of histamine in the body by simply not eating foods that promote histamine levels. Why not use a similar approach for dogs with mast cell tumors, another condition with histamine excess?

The biggies are those foods that are fermented as a part of processing.  Dogs usually don’t eat or drink a lot of those (drinks with alcohol, the more “moldy” of the cheeses like blue, sauerkraut, and vinegar).

But…. there are some out there who feed their dogs tofu.  Be careful!  Practically speaking, tofu could be viewed as a histamine brick.

Another big no-no, if one were using this approach, is fish!  Bacteria in the intestine of fish are quite busy making a lot of histamine, and levels rise after the fish passes away (but before the remains are gutted for food).

To learn more about Mast Cell Tumors, diet, and treatment options, get a copy of this seminar!

Dyes in food and the benzoates (BHT, BHA, sodium benzoate, benzoic acid) are also excluded from the diet.  Read those labels!

Note that the items on the restricted list not only contain histamine, but also are more prone to causing mast cells to release their illness-causing histamine reserves.  This only matters if there is a large mast cell burden (lots of tumor cells in the body) and we are wanting to lessen histamine release. In addition, this is all extrapolated from human information.  The inappropriate human foods should be excluded from the dog diet even if the list says they are “ok”.

I hope this helps-


Dr D

Leave a Comment

  1. Michael on December 19, 2020 at 7:17 am

    So what about fish oil? Would that also contain high histamine levels?

  2. Armando P. Diaz on August 5, 2020 at 4:48 pm

    I just wrote a note RE: my Yorkshire Daisy diagnosed with Mast cell tumor, Grade II/High, with lymphatic invasion.

    By phone, her doctor suggest chemotherapy or prednisone. I have not gotten back to her with more questions.

    Do you have any suggestions, aside of course, from diet?

    Thank you AD
    I would love to have an email to put in the safe sender list.

    • Molly Jacobson on August 10, 2020 at 3:03 pm

      Hello Armando, thanks for your question. You should definitely get a copy of Dr. Dressler’s book The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, because the answer to your question is literally an entire book! 🙂 There are lots of questions to ask your vet, and the book covers those — and then there are supplements to consider, plus diet changes. And lots of mind-body strategies!

  3. Armando P. Diaz on August 5, 2020 at 4:38 pm

    My Yorky little girl, 11 lbs, turned 11 yrs. she was recently diagnosed with “Mast cell tumor, Grade II/High, with lymphatic invasion”. She has been active and healthy. Her diet has been boneless, skinless, cooked chicken and vegetables daily. What is wrong with that?

  4. patricia weitzman on June 24, 2019 at 6:49 am

    dr. theoharides at tufts does research on mastocytosis, and has developed a supplement containing luteolin and quercetin. i might try quercetin for my dog. question: for those of us that cannot do a home-cooked or raw diet for their dog with a mast cell history, wondering what your thoughts/guidelines for kibble. i understand it’s not the first choice for food, but some people don’t have other options. thank you for your thoughts.

    • Tammy on June 20, 2020 at 4:37 pm

      Patricia, did you ever try those supplements for your pup?

      • Jan Clifford on February 20, 2021 at 3:58 am

        I’ve been feeding Dr. Dressler’s diet for months with good results. Now my 100+# greater Swiss mountain dog’s tumor is showing signs that it’s putting out high loads of histamines. I see cottage cheese is on the restricted list but is an ingredient in the cancer diet. Assume this should be left out & if so should I be adding some kind of calcium powder? Any other suggestions? I actually have to make a double batch every time I make the food since she is so large and a double batch only last every three days. I am not freezing the food in between which I suppose is another thing I could do. Thank you for any info you can share.

        • Molly Jacobson on February 21, 2021 at 2:29 pm

          Hi Jan! Yes, leave cottage cheese out of the diet if your dog is getting into histamine overload. You can use citracal max as the calcium supplement (12 tablets per recipe batch, so for you, 24 — just grind them up with a mortar/pestle and mix them into the food). Many folks use boiled egg shells to get nice calcium in (the histamine in eggs is not found in the shells). Or chicken necks! And yes, you can freeze the base mixture for up to a month, which might help you to save some cooking time.

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