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

Latest on Dog Food and Cancer

Updated: April 13th, 2021

Is there a link between dog food an cancer?  Many feel the answer is yes, and there is evidence to support this link.

Today’s post will look at some of the newest thinking on dog food and cancer.

First of all, a dog’s wild diet is quite different from that of a modern, commercial diet.  In the wild, a meal was composed of mainly protein, with very little fat, and a small amount of vegetable (plant) matter. Bones supplied calcium and phosphorus, and internal organs provided vitamins.

This diet had almost no carbohydrates.  There was no cooking involved.  No preservatives were used.  The wild diet did not have any added oils like corn oil.

Here’s a bird’s eye summary on the latest linking dog food and cancer.

First, in preparing commercial food, it is heated at high temperatures.  The same can be said about cooking food in the kitchen at high temperatures.  This process produces potent carcinogens called acrylamide and heterocyclic amines, known carcinogens.

Second, carbohydrates which are turned into simple sugars are now known to be cancer cell’s preferred fuel.  Cancers have a particular type of metabolism that thrive on sugar intake.  By providing a diet rich in carbohydrates, we are also supplying cancer cell fuel.

Is it true that preservatives can cause cancer?  In some cases the answer is yes.  Nitrates and nitrites are not carcinogenic by themselves.  However, they change in the intestine by combining with other substances to make N-nitroso compounds.  These are potent carcinogens.

To make matters worse, the oils found in most commercial diets (and in packaged, ready to eat foods for us humans), are rich in oils like corn oil, vegetable oil and beef fat.  These oils contain very high amounts of a group of fats called omega-6 fatty acids.  These oils increase inflammation in the body.  There is now abundant evidence that cancer and inflammation are tightly connected.

Many dogs get overweight since their food is rich in calories.  Obese dogs make less of a cancer-fighting hormone called adiponectin. Lean dogs make much more of this important hormone.

What’s the bottom line?

Foods that are human grade, cooked at low temperatures, low in added harmful oils, and fed in proper amounts is the way to go.

For more on dog food and other things tied to cancer development, check out The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.


Dr D

Discover the Full Spectrum Approach to Dog Cancer

Leave a Comment

  1. May Is Pet Cancer Awareness Month: Here’s What You Should Know « The Doggy’s Mall on April 24, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    […] Additionally, carbohydrates from grains and corn are converted into sugar in the body, which fuels cancer cells. Even good foods, like fresh vegetables and fruits, can have traces of pesticides or herbicides on […]

  2. Sharon Seltzer on November 3, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Thanks for this sharing this interesting article. Every time I bring this subject up with my veterinarian, I’m told that I shouldn’t trust food except the big name brands because of the extensive testing that goes into the recipes. This is very confusing.

    • Susan Kazara Harper on November 3, 2014 at 6:39 pm

      Sharon, it surely is. Unfortunately may of the ‘big name brands’ are now owned by huge chemical companies and sadly the emphasis isn’t necessarily on givingour dogs quality nutrition. Use your own discernment, and just remember that as not every vet specializes in neurosurgery or eye conditoins or rehabilitation or many other things, not every vet will specialize in nutrition. We do our best to bring the top advice from vets who DO specialize in cancer and the related areas of support. Also, just have a look yourself at the ingredients on the majority of commercial dog foods. Part of this journey is getting very smart about our dog’s health, and our dogs showing us how they literally lap up the things that are good for them. Take a few deep breaths and stick to your guns. Good luck!

  3. Donelle on May 6, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    Dr. Dressler – In your book, you say to stay away from Oyster Shell Calcium, but the free e-book said to use it so I have been putting in our dog’s cancer diet per your recipe. Should we now switch to Calcitrate?

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on May 9, 2012 at 4:01 pm

      Yes, Donelle, you are correct.

  4. kim on May 2, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    I am curious about giving dogs cocconut oil. I have heard many good things about its anti-inflamatory properties and other qualities. However, it is rich in omega 6’s. Good for your dog or not?

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on May 9, 2012 at 4:16 pm

      Dear Kim,
      I don’t routinely advocate it. It is good for dogs with liver disease though as a source of medium chain fatty acids. I am not sure I would say its a good vesus bad thing as there are different effects that may be good or bad in a given dog. I hope this makes sense-

  5. Nicole Thome on May 1, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Go RAW!

  6. Jennifer on July 7, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Since Hunny got cancer, three months ago, we have switched over to Blue Buffalo grain free food. She really seems to be enjoying it better! I am glad that she is eating food that is better for her. I didn’t realize all the fillers and carbohydrates that were in regular dog foods until my oncologist informed me.
    Jennifer & Hunny

  7. Kammee on July 5, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    My boy Dannon a 9 yr aussie was diagnosed with mast cell 1. 6 yrs ago. He is raw fed 2 times a day and gets minimal carbohydrates once a day. Yes he still got cancer but it was his rabies vaccine that initally caused his cancer a sarcoma, when he was three. The raw food I feel prevented this tragidy from taking off at a much an earlier age. he is still with us doing well he is being treated totally holistic and has had NO VACCINES since he was three. He also gets no chicken anymore since it has the higest amount of histamine release in its meat of all of the meats. When dealing with mast celll you want to prevent the additonal histamine release since this speads the cancer. When he was on chicken he kept getting worse. So I usemeat bone and low glycemic index carbs no grains in his food in the morning and meat and bone/orgons in the evening meal. I found in my opinion that the sojerns and the honest kitchen products that any proscessing isnt good even if it is just roasted or freeze dried isnt good. You also must provide good protein sources organic and lots of it about 50% of the diet..

  8. Valerie on July 1, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Hi Dr. Dressler,

    After losing Katie last summer to cancer, my son and I decided to overhaul the way we treat and care for Lucy, our 4 year-old shih tzu. No more vaccines for a start, and second, we make our own dog food consisting of free range chicken, both white and dark meat mixed with brown rice and steamed broccoli and zucchini. So far so good. Lucy became diabetic after taking medicine that saved her life from auto-immune deficiency due to red blood cells. She is now on Atopica for life. Is this the right thing to be doing for her well-being?

    Thank you! Valerie and Josh

  9. Tracy on July 1, 2010 at 1:34 am

    My dog has always eaten premixes such as Sojourner Farms or Honest Kitchen with raw meat added all her life….and she still got cancer 🙁 So, my switch after the cancer diagnosis was stop the grains(Sojo’s – even though whole grains!) and get the carbs down by only using premixes with low carb content and increasing the protein.
    It’s hard to give the argument to other dog owners that feed kibble to switch their food on their dog for raw when they see my dog got cancer….


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