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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. BARBARA BRAUN on June 13, 2019 at 10:25 am

    I just found out this past Tuesday my dog has a mast cell tumor. We have injected the mass with Cortisone to shrink the tumor as it is on his elbow and it will be easier to have clean margins if it is smaller. Is Raw tripe a good source of digestive enzyme for dog with Mast Cell tumor. I do not want to feed him kibble based on research showing the carcinogenic properties of processing dog food. I have been feeding my dog Raw Turkey meat & bone, green beans, okra, yellow squash, turkey hearts, turkey gizzards, & turkey liver that is prepared locally by an organic farm. They recommended Raw tripe as my dog had been on an extensive course antibiotics after having suffered through several months of a deep skin infection with bleeding paws for 5 months. His paw became raw on Monday, brought him to vet and had her check a lump I found the day before to find out it is Mast Cell. He is on Simplicef antibiotic for paw and Benadryl for Mast Cell. He has been doing very well on this diet with well formed stool whereas in the past he had many issues with diarrhea.Can I simmer his current raw food mixture so it is not raw? I am trying not to shock his system during this process so as not to complicate his treatment and care. We plan on removing the mass next Thursday depending on results from cortisone shot.

    • Dog Cancer Vet Team on June 14, 2019 at 6:54 am

      Hey Barbara,

      Thanks for writing and we’re sorry to hear about your boy. It’s perfectly fine to simmer meats in a chicken or bone broth, or even water, over low heat 🙂 Dr. D doesn’t recommend raw diets for dog’s with cancer as they already have a compromised immune system and are more susceptible to bacteria– which means that they may get sick as a result. You can read more on his thoughts on raw diets here.

      You may also find the article on Food and Nutrition for Dogs with Mast Cell Tumors to be an insightful read as Susan covers special cooking instructions, diet, commercial foods, and much more, for dogs with MCT 🙂

  2. Terri Beirne on February 27, 2019 at 8:19 am

    Dear Doctor,
    My dog had a mast cell tumor removed on her back and 2 cysts on her neck. One was carcinoma. All clear margins and no signs of spreading. She now has a large lump on her neck in the same location as the others. Should I have it removed? Or can we do needle biopsy first to see what it is? Sadly money is an issue so that is why I am asking about needle biopsy.
    I appreciate any information as I am in a desperate mode to get her on a good diet as well. I have made a batch of food using your recipe but need to supplement with other food as she is a big girl at 100 lbs. Any suggestions on a brand kibble? Thank you in advance.

    • Dog Cancer Vet Team on February 28, 2019 at 6:38 am

      Hi Terri,

      Thanks for writing, and we’re sorry to hear about your girl. As Dr. Sue writes in this article, if a lump is larger than 1cm, or has been there for over a month, get it checked by your vet ASAP. Your vet will be able to do a Fine Needle Aspirate (if possible), and let you know what that lump is

      From there, you can decide on a Treatment Plan 🙂

      As Dr. D writes in the Dog Cancer Survival Guide, there are many things that you can do to help your dog with cancer, such as conventional treatments (chemo, surgery, or radiation), diet, nutraceuticals, mind-body strategies and immune system boosters and anti-metastatics. We’re glad to hear you are using the Dog Cancer Diet 🙂 On page 76 of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide, Dr. D writes that second only to home cooked meals, he recommends certain high-quality brands like Halo, Solid Gold, and Blue Buffalo, to name a few 🙂

  3. Lauren on February 2, 2019 at 1:35 pm

    I was wondering if there are any palliative topical treatments to help my dog with the discomfort of the tumor. The vet we go to has said there is nothing more we can do outside prednisone, Pepcid and Benadryl. Is cortisone cream or I’be read about turmeric salve to put on the tumor to help with this discomfort my dog is feeling? He is in what appears to be great health otherwise and is still enjoying life and is eating fine.

    • Jenn on February 3, 2020 at 5:25 pm

      Have there been any studies or recommendations on getting an allergy test done on your fur baby to help with the histamine levels? I am loving all the information I am reading in your books. Thank you for sharing and caring so much!

  4. Janet G on January 29, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    Is fish oil still recommended (from supplement capsules)?
    How about cottage cheese?
    FYI my 16-yr-old cockapoo Rosie has a widespread inoperable mast cell tumor, which appeared in September after she initially had a smaller one removed in June (it wasn’t possible to get good margins). Prednisone seems to have slowed the growth; it seemed to spread when we tried weaning her from it. She seems to be irritated by the tumor, but doesn’t seem to be suffering, still has a great appetite and good energy. She’s on Prednisone, Diphenhydramine (generic Benadryl), and Famotidine recommended by our vet, plus I give her Vitamin C (calcium ascorbate) and feed her the Cancer diet. I’m thinking of trying a turmeric paste topically, but her tumor has had spots that are bleeding and also seems to have some necrosis on part she of it ( horrible smell!), so I’m hesitant.
    Thanks for providing so much information for those of us trying to help our pups through cancer, who can’t get to specialists! Our Rosie is very old, but we don’t want to just “write her off” and watch her suffer from this when she is otherwise doing well. I believe the cancer diet plus all these other things we’re doing has helped to at least stop the tumor from spreading.

    • Dog Cancer Vet Team on January 30, 2019 at 7:28 am

      Hello Janet,

      Thanks for writing! As we’re not veterinarians here in customer support, we can’t offer you medical advice 🙂

      In Food and Nutrition for Dogs with Mast Cell Tumors, Sue does answer your questions about cottage cheese and krill/fish oil, so definitely check it out 🙂

      As Dr. D writes in the Dog Cancer Survival Guide, there are many things that you can do to help your dog with cancer, such as conventional treatments (if possible), diet, nutraceuticals, mind-body strategies and immune system boosters and anti-metastatics. But always check with your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s current health, or treatment plan 🙂

      We hope this helps!

  5. Dallas Ryan on December 21, 2018 at 11:43 am

    I wanted to say thank you Dr. Dressler. Your book, blog and interviews online have been invaluable. My Chug, Daisy, was diagnosed with Mast Cell Tumor Cancer on December 20th, 2016, and she’s still going pretty well to this day, December 21st 2018. It’s because of your interviews, book, blog, me doing my part and prayer everyday that she’s still here. I’m truly grateful for everyday with her. I can never repay you for what you’ve done for Daisy and I (and probably for what you’ve done for many dogs across the world). I’m truly appreciative to you. God bless you.

    • Dog Cancer Vet Team on December 24, 2018 at 7:23 am

      Hey Dallas and Daisy!

      Thanks for sharing your story with us! 🙂 We are so glad to hear that the book, the videos, and the blog have been very helpful to you both!

      Warm wishes from all of us here! x

  6. MCT cancer information – on February 2, 2018 at 5:03 am

    […] Here are some links to informative articles I’ve found pertaining to MCT cancer in dogs Some of the foods mentioned in these articles should not be fed in a Ketogenic diet, but the information is useful nonetheless. DIET FOR DOGS WITH MCT- by Demian Dressler […]

  7. MakeConstantinopleEuropeanAnew on November 8, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    Do you have any specific things that we can add to fight cancer?

  8. Amber Drake on October 16, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are good for dogs with cancer. Fish oil is recommended, along with krill oil, for dogs who have cancer. The use of krill oil and fish oil should be alternated each month. So, you should provide your dog with fish oil for one full month, then alternate to krill oil the next month, and continue to alternate. As a general guideline, dogs up to 10 lbs should consume 1,000-2,000 mg daily; dogs 10.1-35 lbs should consume 3,000-4,000 mg daily; dogs 35.1-60 lbs should consume 6,000-9,000 mg daily and dogs over 60.1 lbs should consume 10,000-12,000 mg daily (of fish or krill oil).

    • Nancy Yanez Walker on October 23, 2017 at 9:00 am

      But does that apply to dogs with Mast Cell since fish is off the table for them?

      • Clare Dillon on January 24, 2018 at 4:10 am

        That is what I was wondering as my boy has had 6 grade one mast cell tumours removed in two separate surgeries in the past 6 weeks and has arthritis of the elbows. He had been having half a tin of tuna a day with his devils claw and salmon oil now I don’t know what to do??

        • Nancy Walker on January 25, 2018 at 7:37 am

          I went the Krill oil back then and still use it.

          • Clare Dillon on January 28, 2018 at 1:08 pm

            Thank you, I’ve gone with hemp and turmeric. Has coming off the fish oils helped your dog? Are you dealing with mast cell tumours too?

  9. 9Kamon on October 13, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    So is fish oil ok?

  10. Amber Drake on October 10, 2017 at 9:03 am

    Hello, Dallas. Histamine is a chemical that triggers inflammation. Histamine can cause swelling, redness, pain vomiting, blood pressure changes, and more. Cancer thrives in a high-histamine environment, and mast cell tumors also may release histamines themselves. Blocking these histamines can help the immune system and prevent or slow down metastasis of the tumor.

    • Dallas Ryan on October 10, 2017 at 7:32 pm

      Thank you Amber, I appreciate your response. This helps.
      Have a nice day!

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