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

Why Is Diet Ignored In Dog Cancer Care?

Updated: August 16th, 2019


Why on earth is diet ignored in dog cancer? This is a huge blind spot in the veterinary profession. We should start looking at this.

Why is diet ignored in dog cancer care? To answer that, we have to take a wide-angle view.

Modern medicine is a developing science.  Things are changing and expanding all the time. With all of the new information being produced and the fact that it can now be accessed like never before, change is more rapid than it used to be. This knowledge explosion is predictable and has been identified in computer hardware development as Moore’s Law, where the transistor number on circuit boards doubles every 18 months.

Yet in spite of exploding information, we still face significant challenges in dog cancer.  There are forces at play which stifle the growth of information that could be useful in treating dog cancer.  Some of these include the fact that research has leaned towards reduction (looking at small things instead of larger body systems), peer pressure among researchers to stay within what is accepted (the old ideas) or face ridicule and perhaps career loss, and the tendency of the scientific method to move by branching off existing ideas rather than leap sideways.

Why Isn’t There an Official Dog Cancer Diet?

One of my personal challenges in trying to help people coping with dog cancer is how conventional veterinary care continues to ignore diet as a treatment. For the life of me, I do not understand this.

Even non-veterinarians know that diet impacts physiology, health, and disease.  One does not need a fancy degree to be aware of this fact.  The evidence is all around us and can be appreciated by having eyeballs, ears, and a brain.

Even if the general public did not know this truth (which they do), veterinary medicine generally acknowledges that diet is important for dog health. We have prescription diets available for many illnesses … but not cancer. We have home-made diet recipes we are trained to provide our clients that are adjusted to fit the new needs of the diseased body … but not for cancer.

We have diets to help:

  • treat obesity
  • maintain a lean body condition
  • dissolve urinary stones
  • maintain crystal-free urine
  • treat food allergies
  • aid in the management of vomiting and diarrhea
  • assist in dealing with liver disease
  • lower blood toxins in kidney disease
  • help with pancreatitis
  • support cardiac patients
  • decrease inflammation from arthritis and other orthopedic problems
  • the brain in dealing with aging changes

We have diets for large, medium, and small breed dogs.  We have diets for sensitive tummy and skin..and so on.

But no official diet for cancer.

I’ve made one for dogs with cancer, which is in my book and has been reviewed by veterinary nutritionists. It’s helped hundreds of thousands of dogs. But I have yet to see anything like it be adopted in an official way.

Let’s Think of Cancer as a Chronic Disease

What’s common about all of the diseases above? They are all considered chronic. I think the main reason we don’t have an official diet for dog cancer is that we just don’t think of it as a chronic disease. (To be fair, there was once a prescription diet formulated for cancer, but it never caught on.)

But that’s wrong. Cancer CAN be managed as a chronic disease. It’s not an immediate death sentence!

Dog cancer is the number one cause of canine death, with 1 in 3 dogs contracting it of any age.  If your dog is over 10, she has a 50% chance of getting cancer.  There are 6 million dog cancer cases annually, according to the Animal Cancer Foundation. Sorry, but with that many patients experiencing cancer, I think we should start thinking of it as something to live with, just like diabetes, heart disease, or allergies.

So, you can help. Ask your vet about diet if you have a dog and you are coping with dog cancer.  If your vet does not know, give him a copy of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide or download the free special report on diet, excerpted from the book.


Dr D

Leave a Comment

  1. Susan Kazara Harper on May 27, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Janet, what can I say! Blessings to you and your family with everything you’ve been through and are still experiencing. Mya’s case is certainly hard to go through, and I can only imagine you and your husband are exhausted and heart-sick.

    So, what can you do. Are you on the Dog Cancer Diet (with the modifications of easy food for Mya of course)? Are you using Apocaps or any other supplementation? I hope you have been through the Dog Cancer Survival Guide for detailed information about oral melanomas, and also for help coping with your role in this situation. There are several blogs including which you may find helpful. Just because you have traveled this weary road before doesn’t mean you automatically cope with it. Mya will feel every pang in your heart, and while that’s an extra responsibility, it also a mirror. You and your husband need to bond together to hold each other up, and hold her up as well while you make your decisions. Please look at the full spectrum care Dr. Dressler described in his book (The Dog Cancer Survival Guide) and make the best informed choices about using supplement, nutraceutical like Apocaps and any other treatments your vet or you feels may help. Work with your vets closely to get the best plan for Mya. If you don’t already have an oncologist, your vet should be able to consult with one on your case. We are thinking of you and holding you all close.

  2. Janet Munro on May 24, 2014 at 9:06 am

    Dear Dr. Dressler,
    Our 9-year old cocka-poo was diagnosed with oral melanoma in Oct. 2013. As we live in the great white north of BC, Canada, we traveled to Vancouver, B.C. to have this mass removed and to setup treatments with an Oncologist for the melanoma vaccine. Mya, had the lower portion of the left side of her jaw removed, the jaw hinge and teeth, as well as a lymph node. The surgeon exercised until he got a clear margin, but pathology reports showed disease in the lymph node. Mya finished her initial vaccine treatments, and all was good… up until last weekend. I found a another mass in the same place that the
    original mass was removed. My husband is on his way home from
    Vancouver as we speak, and Mya had the mass removed, more bone from her
    jaw and another lymph node. We will not know the pathology reports for
    awhile, but x-rays showed no metastases in the lungs, so she got
    another vaccine shot. So, now what do we do ??? How do we prevent
    this tumour from growing?? Honestly, if we didn’t have bad luck we
    would have no luck at all!!! We lost our 23-year old son to meningitis
    on Nov. 4, 2011 and at this same time my sister’s melanoma came back.
    So I am very familiar with this horrible disease. This trip to
    Vancouver .. well it turned into a nightmare. My husband’s vehicle
    broke down on route, had to find a tow truck in no-where’s land, make
    flight arrangements on a 4 seater plane, taxi’s, dog carrier, then make
    the same arrangements to fly to pick-up his truck.. and now is driving
    another 12 hours home. This was on-top of all the vet bills and
    stress of surgery for both him and Mya!! The closest place for
    radiation is Washington, and that is not even an option for us. My son
    that we lost, was also a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with a
    Wilms tumour, 8 days after his first birthday, and underwent 2-1/2 years
    of chemo and radiation. Like I said … I could really use some
    good, sound advise and what do we do from here ???? Sending a hug of
    gratitude your way – Janet Munro

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