Since Sora’s cancer returned after a failed electrochemotherapy treatment in November of 2017, I spent spent hours and hours researching cancer in dogs. I stayed up late, my phone glowing under the sheets so as not to wake Dave, reading about the recommended foods and supplements for a dog cancer diet.
There are so many ideas and theories out there regarding foods for dogs with cancer that it’s overwhelming taking it all in and to know what truly works and what is “best.”
After all my research, I had a number of supplements I regularly gave to Sora and I also made changes to her diet. I didn’t know whether they did anything for the canine anti cancer diet, as Sora passed away in 2018 after her fourth go with cancer. My goal was to keep the cancer away as long as I could and supply my dog’s body with as much nutrients as possible. What I do know is that these supplements aren’t only good for dogs with cancer, many act as preventative measures with healthy dogs for avoiding cancer in the first place (but not necessarily preventing canine cancer from occurring in your dog), so I use them with Lalia and Riia.
And now for my disclaimer jargon: I am not a veterinarian nor am I a veterinary nutritionist. I am a concerned dog mom who wants her dogs to be as healthy as possible and will do what she can to keep the cancer at bay through a dog cancer diet. These aren’t cures for cancer and they may not work with your pet’s particular condition. Talk to your vet before administering any of these supplements and foods (even a raw diet) to make sure they are right for your dog’s treatment plan.
Foods and Supplements I add to Sora’s Dog Cancer Diet
Home Cooked Dog Food
I switched to mostly plant-based, home cooked diet. Yes, for my dogs.
Before you come at me with you concerns or attacks over dogs eating plant-based, that they’re carnivores, that they are designed to eat meat, etc, etc. I have read it all, and I have heard it all. I was dubious as well.
I know that a plant-based diet seems outrageous and risky, and I had concerns myself, until I picked up the most recent copy of Dr. Pictairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats. I’ve used several iterations of this book over the years (my mom has a copy from the ‘80s!) and I was shocked to see that he was actually recommending a plant-based diet for dogs.
Dogs can indeed eat a plant-based diet, as they have evolved from their ancestors to become omnivorous, provided their meals are supplemented with the right nutrition. I kindly ask that you respect our decision and know that we would never do anything to put Riia or Laila’s health in jeopardy. We are working with their veterinarian and monitoring their health regularly.
I’ve purchased a few books on plant-based diets in dogs and there is a great Facebook group called Vegan Dog Nutrition with loads of information about feeding your dogs plant-based meals, if this is something you’re curious to learn more about.
More importantly than feeding plant-based however, is switching to a homemade diet. I understand that a (mostly) plant-based diet is not for everyone. I don’t know about the rates of cancer in dogs around the world, but one thing I did notice during our bicycle tour was that most people did not feed their dogs “dog food.” They took all the leftovers from meals and served it to the dogs (some probably contained foods dogs shouldn’t eat, so don’t just hand your unfinished dinner plate over to your pup!).
It is well known that commercial pet foods (even those claiming to be the best dog food for a dog with cancer) are not always the healthiest option for our animals, as they contain fillers like corn and wheat, 4-D meat, “meat meals and meat by-products,” antibiotics, rancid and moldy grains, and a whole host of other shocking ingredients. There are plenty of high-quality store-bought options out there for our pets if the thought of home cooked meals for your dog is too much to handle. Try and stick to dehydrated, freeze-dried, or store bought homemade foods, if you can. I’ve seen many sources that say stick to cooked meat for a dog cancer diet, as opposed to a raw food diet to avoid bacterial contamination and diseases.
You can always monitor your dog’s weight and look for signs of weight loss. Making adjustments to their food is an ongoing process that doesn’t end after finding a good recipe.
Reduce Sugars and Carbohydrates
Sora’s favorite thing in the world was bread. That dog would be lethargic and sick from vomiting and diarrhea for a couple days and the way I know she’s starting to feel better? She would pull like mad toward any piece of bread dropped on the ground. We had so many nicknames and puns for her, like her favorite band being the Grateful Bread.
Unfortunately for Sora, cancer has a sweet tooth and the cancer cells feed off of the sugars from carbohydrates and starches. Therefore, I made her meals using limited carbohydrates and low-sugar foods. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t give Sora and Laila a grain-free diet, I simply choose whole grains like brown rice or quinoa over starchier ones like white rice and wheat flours.
A few foods to avoid for dogs with cancer:
- Sweet potatoes
Wild Salmon Oil
Studies have shown that adding the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils may stall the growth and development of some tumors. Reduce the amount of omega-6 fatty acids, as the balance of the two can cause inflammation and suppress the immune system.
Look for wild, non-farmed Alaskan salmon oil. We use this one from Grizzly Omega Health. Wild Salmon oil is also great for dogs or those suffering with skin allergies or coat issues.
I know what you’re thinking: But garlic is poisonous for dogs!
In excessive amounts, yes, but in small amounts, it’s just fine.
I gave Sora one clove per day, grated on my Mircroplane (just be sure to break it up in the food. Dogs aren’t too keen on getting a large chunk of garlic in their mouths!).
Garlic contains anti cancer properties that reduce inflammation, is filled with nutrients like amino acids, zinc, potassium, manganese, selenium, and Vitamins A, B6, and C, and is an antioxidant that fights free radicals that can lead to diseases like cancer. Most importantly, for dogs with cancer, it boosts the immune system.
As a bonus, it can work as a natural method to keep fleas and ticks away!
A friend recommended that we try CBD oil when he learned that Sora had developed cancer for a fourth time. Diving more into the research, I decided to give it ago. There’s not a ton of information out there about it’s effect on cancer, but what I did find seemed promising.
After searching the web high and low, I finally landed on HempMy Pet. It’s organically-grown in Colorado, uses third-party testing, and integrates a full-spectrum single-source growth, which means that I’m getting the same product every time.
Now, I can’t tell what was going on inside Sora’s body, but CBD aided her with a host of other health issues, including:
- Anxiety (including on crazy puppies!)
- Pain and inflammation
- Reduces nausea
- Stimulates appetite
- Seizures and epilepsy
Learn more with our honest review of HempMy Pet products.
I have been digging deep into medicinal mushrooms ever since Sora was diagnosed with cancer for the fourth time. I had heard about them in bits and pieces, but it wasn’t until I started researching that I learned just how freaking cool mushrooms are.
For an absolutely fascinating description of what mushrooms can do, not just for cancer, but for a whole host of other health and even societal issues, take a listen to this Paul Stamets interview on the Joe Rogan show. It’s long. Really long. But the time will fly by. There’s also a podcast you can download, if preferred.
Back to mushrooms and cancer.
In a blog post on the Dog Cancer Blog by authors of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide, Demian Dressler, DVM and Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip.ACVIM, write that “certain kinds of mushrooms have immune boosting and anti-cancer effects.” Mushrooms like Shiitake, Maitake, Reishi, Cordyceps, Coriolus, and Agaricus have been found to extend life in their cancer patients and allow them to maintain a high quality of living for periods well beyond expected.
Mushrooms do this in three ways: by stimulating and enhancing the immune system and helping with the toxic side effects from chemotherapy and radiation.
In 2012, the University of Pennsylvania conducted a study of 15 dogs with hemangiosarcoma by giving them coriolus versicolor, (turkey tail mushrooms), which have been used in Chinese medicine for ages. The research showed that the dogs taking this compound had the longest survival times ever reports of dogs with this type of cancer.
There are many different types of mushroom supplements out there and picking the right ones can be overwhelming. Here are a few that we highly recommend. Talk with your veterinary oncologist about dosage as it depends on the type of mushroom.
Our recommendations for mushrooms to add to a dog cancer diet:
I’ve been a fan of turmeric paste for years. Any time I’m training for a tough race, recovering from an injury, or just wanting an extra boost of anti-inflammatory, I drink Golden Milk and make lots of curries. And, it’s not just great for humans, but also for pets.
Turmeric is one of the world’s most widely used spices and its uses have been documented for thousands of years.
When purchasing turmeric, make sure the label says “100% Turmeric” or “Pure Turmeric.” I often buy mine in bulk from Indian stores. It’s much, much cheaper and the quality is the same as what you can find in a supermarket.
I simply made what is known as golden paste and added anywhere from ½ – 1 teaspoon to Sora’s meals. It’s super simple to make and can be used for humans as well! In order reap the benefits of the turmeric, a small amount of black pepper and an anti-inflammatory oil is required. There’s a great Facebook Group called Turmeric Users that has all kinds of information about turmeric, including uses, recipes, and more.
Here’s a great recipe for golden paste from Doug English, founder of the Turmeric Users group and also a veterinarian in Australia.
THE GOLDEN PASTE RECIPE (reprinted with permission)
- 1/2 cup turmeric powder (125 mls) (60 grams)
- 1 cup water (250 mls), and 1 cup in reserve if needed
- 1/3 cup (70 mls) cold pressed Olive or Coconut oil
- 2-3 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper
Place turmeric and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer (a slow boil) and stir until you have a thick paste. This should take about 7 – 10 minutes and you will probably need to add additional water along the way. Let the mixture cool until it’s just warm to the touch, and then add the pepper and oil. Mix thoroughly (some people like to use a whisk). Vigorous beating isn’t necessary if you let the mixture cool a bit before adding the oil. Store in a clean glass jar and refrigerate. It isn’t absolutely necessary to sterilize the jar, but doing so will help prolong the life of the Golden Paste.
If you prefer not to make your own, the the Honest Kitchen has you covered. This one doesn’t contain black pepper, so I would recommend adding a bit of freshly ground pepper when using this product.
Recommended Books to Help Decide on a Dog Cancer Diet
Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats (4th Edition) by Richard H. Pitcairn and Susan Hubble Pitcairn. This is my go-to source for home treatments for all of my pets. I’ve used many of the remedies written in this book and have had great success. Includes several easy homemade dog and cat food recipes.
The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity by Demian Dressler and Susan Ettinger. This book is such an incredible resource for dogs with cancer. The authors have done so much research into the subject and offer a host of advice on dealing with cancer in dogs and advice on a dog cancer diet.
Plant-Based Recipes for Dogs | Nutritional Lifestyle Guide: Feed Your Dog for Health and Longevity by Heather Coster. Coster describes why dogs can thrive on a plant-based diet through research and studies. She includes several easy nutritionally-complete recipes to make at home for your dog.
Feed Your Best Friend Better: Easy, Nutritious Meals and Treats for Dogs by Rick Woodford. When Woodford’s own dog was diagnosed with cancer, he studied dog nutrition and prescribed his pup to a dog cancer diet that earned him four more years of life. (not plant-based)
There are many foods that can benefit a dog cancer diet that help keep the disease at bay or possibly even send it into remission. Or, they may do nothing at all to fight the cancer, but will help in other areas like a healthy immune system, better digestion, and a shiny coat. I am not recommending that you opt out of cancer treatment and only use holistic medicines. I was giving all of these to Sora in addition to her electrochemotherapy and radiation treatments. You know your dog, and you and your vet should come up with a plan together that determines what the best treatment options are to provide the optimal quality of life for your pup.