Skip to content
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. Angie on March 11, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Dr. Dressler,
    Do you do telephone consults? I would love to discuss Cody’s cancer and your opinion on what other things we can do? Maybe we could do a call with my Oncologist and yourself understanding that there would be a fee for such a service.
    Please let me know.

  2. Angie on February 26, 2013 at 4:58 am

    Dr. Dressler,
    I’m so thankful I have found your book. I carry this book with me when I go see the Oncologist and use it as a reference as we discuss my 6 yr old Mastiff’s cancer.
    My mastiff was diagnosed with a periarticular histiocytic sarcoma in his cheek. Surgery was not an option so we did 5 sessions of radiation. The tumor has almost shrunk to nothing and he has now started CCNU.
    My question to you – am I ok to give MCP, Cordyceps and Glutamine while undergoing chemo?
    Is there anything else I should be thinking about?
    Thanks again for your amazing outlook on cancer and the help some of us have been looking for!

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on March 6, 2013 at 4:42 pm

      If your dog were my patient I would not have a problem with those. I would be also definitely contemplating Apocaps, oral doxycline, low dose oral neoplasene with mirtazapine, and omega three (DHA/EPA), all of which are discussed in the Guide. Please discuss all treatment steps with your vet…
      Dr D

  3. Cassandra on February 25, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    I have one question about your cancer diet, why liver? Liver filters our blood, making it full of everything that was filterd out of our system because it is not healthy for the body. it is probably the worst think I could think of to put into a sick animals body. How can this benefit an already compromised immune system??

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on March 6, 2013 at 4:39 pm

      Dear Cassandra, there are a variety of reasons. However, did you know the liver is one of the first things wild dogs consume in a prey species?

  4. Liz on January 14, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Dr. D,
    I have a 12 year old female Lab, Greta, that just had part of her upper left jaw removed due to a small tumor that was developing behind her canine tooth. We are being told we have a very unusual case and several pathologist reviewed the original biopsy due to the strange nature of the cells. When the gum tissue and jaw bone material were removed and biopsied, the tumor was also found in the bone. Again, there was a very unusual nature to the cells of the tumor so the pathologist could not be certain if it is fibrosarcoma or osteosarcoma. (Side note: a rattle snake bit Greta in this exact area of her muzzle when she was 2 years old which we think is an interesting coincidence). We want to put Greta onto the cancer diet but we also are dealing with elevated liver values (latest tests from this week ALT 145, ALKP 1707, TBILI .2, Bile Acids 23, and a biopsy of the liver this September showed hepatitis) and the start of Larynx Paralysis. I read in your book that the cancer diet needs to be adjusted for liver issues. Is there additional information on how to adjust this diet to be beneficial for cancer and liver issues? (We did try using a vet nutritionist through our vets office to develop a specific homemade diet for these issues but ended up with recommendations of ingredients such as pasta, white rice, dark chicken meat, pumpkin and marshmallows and vanilla wafflers as some of the treat suggestions. These are things we would never feed her if she was healthy!) We want to do everything possible to give Greta the best possible quality of life. We currently use Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream and any advise on how to provide her with a more beneficial diet for her health issues would be much appreciate. Thank you!

  5. Richard Waits on January 11, 2013 at 7:53 am

    Have another question to add – he weighs 82lbs and is on 20mg prednisone per day. what would dosage for Apocaps be? Thanks.

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on January 29, 2013 at 6:16 pm

      Dear Richard,
      Dogs on pred usually get half the labeled dose of Apocaps. click here for the label info:

  6. Richard Waits on January 10, 2013 at 3:39 am

    Doctors, We are at a point with our 9 yo male GSD where we are just trying to get him to be comfortable and defecate while nourishing him. THis comes 24 mos after diagnosis of Adenocarsinoma of Anal Sac with 3 diferent masses removed over 13 mos (last was 2/2011), various chemo courses (last ended 8/2012) … as of 11/6/2012 Wulfie was said to have no masses but enlarged sublumbar and caudal rectal lymphnodes. We have had him on Dr. Dressler’s diet as best a possible and strong dose of chinese herbs, but no more chemo. Started pred 12/15/2012. Lots difficulty defecating last 3 mos. Appetite was weak, now nonexistent. Last few days noappetite and very little stool tho he trys. Pees ok. Nodes must be bigger. Only way i see to feed him is syringe, which is 60ml. What food like a protein shake do you recommend and how much per day? We put him on 5 ml lactulose 2x/day 2 days ago and hope that will allow the stool to come out. All advice very appreciated. Feels like we are near the end. Goals – Comfort, nutrition, defecation, and all advice is very appreciated.

  7. Joyce C. on January 9, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Dr. D – Thanks so much for focusing on this. When my dog Bo was diagnosed with a splenic tumor two years ago (which was subsequently removed) one of my first questions was how should I change his diet? The oncologist said “I wouldn’t change it, diet doesn’t have any effect on the cancer.” When I later asked him if he knew about your Survival Guide, he said he doesn’t look at anything on the internet. So thank you for sharing your research and knowledge with those of us open to new ideas – it was my bible during Bo’s illness and months of recovery.
    Joyce C.

  8. marianne on January 9, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    I bought the Dog Cancer book for my Kindle. My 12 year old large GSD dog has prostate cancer. He was diagnosed almost a year and a half ago. The vet is astounded. I did not opt for chemotherapy – only an anti-inflammatory called Piroxicam. I also have him on k9 ImmunityPlus (Aloha Medicinals), Robert McDowell’s herbal treatments, CoQ10, probiotics, selenium and Vitamin E. The DIET is what I am struggling with. I did try the recipe in the book but my boy would not eat it. He absolutely hates veggies and fruit, and I have tried numerous times to sneak them into his food with no luck. I have pureed them, chopped them, cooked them, you name it, and he won’t eat anything that they are mixed with. I started giving him canned green tripe and he loves that. Are there enough greens in that? Raw food he likes but gets diarrhea and vomiting. I tried giving him raw meat from the grocery store, and also frozen BARF food from a supplier(he didn’t like that either). The only thing he holds down well is venison and a friend of mine went out and hunted just for him and got two deer! Needless to say, you can’t just give a dog raw deer meat and think they are getting enough nutrients. He also does very well with kibble, namely Merricks grain free and Taste of the Wild. Lately I’ve been mixing in some cooked chicken or venison with the dry, adding a little cottage cheese, sometimes a little liver, and of course the tripe. MY BIGGEST CONCERN THESE LAST 17 MONTHS IS WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING DIFFERENTLY REGARDING HIS FOOD? Over the past couple of weeks he has been shedding more than usual with fur sticking out in tufts all over. Is that diet related? I am really stressing over this. I want to do the right thing. Please give me some recommendations. Thank you.

  9. Gordon Sandelier on January 9, 2013 at 8:46 am

    Thank you for the great information.

  10. Mary Emmons on January 9, 2013 at 8:17 am

    You hit the nail on the head Dr. D. . .that is why I am so glad that we have other resources, like your website and book. Thanks so much for giving us pet parents other options and information that not only helps beat the cancer, but also helps keep our dogs happier and healthier. Someone once said to me, in the office, that if these things all worked for fighting cancer, then why don’t people use them. My answer was because they don’t research enough and they are made fun of when you use holistic options. Make fun of me all you want people, my dog is living a happier and healthier life and it is due to supplements, Halo dog food along with good homemade diet with lots of veggies, curcummin/turmeric, aloe, , benadryl, and now modified citrus pectin. I had 4 MCT’s removed 2 years ago off of my american bulldog and we are keeping others from growing as well. He had bad arthritis and the supplements have helped with that as well and he does not limp anymore, except at times in really cold temperatures. Then of course he gets a good leg massage! Thanks again for all your helpful information.

Scroll To Top