What are the nutritional needs of your dog with cancer?

Share Button

give cancer the paw button_reWe are joining the Give Cancer the Paw Blog Hop today. In our post for the Hop last November, we provided a list of general resources for pet owners on the initial diagnosis and treatment of canine cancer.
Today, we are going to dig a little deeper and provide some insight into the diet and nutritional needs of the canine cancer patient.
The most recent study into this field was conducted at the Cummings School of Veterinary Science at Tufts University and published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association on December 1, 2012. The report is titled: Assessment of commercial diets and recipes for home-prepared diets recommended for dogs with cancer.
The authors of the study evaluated 27 different published diets or specialized commercial foods for their nutritional adequacy for dogs with cancer. Their findings were surprising. Unfortunately, the full text is not available online for free, but you can purchase it here for $30.
I was able to locate a few articles that provide a review of their findings:

  1. A Review of Diets Intended for Dogs with Cancer
  2. Evidence Update-Most Homemade Cancer Diets for Dogs are Inadequate

Probably the most important and interesting finding of Dr. Heinze and his team is this:
“Currently, the authors are aware of no evidence to suggest that cancer patients have nutrient needs that differ dramatically from maintenance requirements. Many dog owners change to home-prepared diets because of an overall perception that they are healthier than commercial diets, rather than because they provide specific nutrient profiles. Thus, it appears appropriate that home-prepared diets be formulated to meet nutrient guidelines similar to those of commercial products.”
It appears, contrary to the prior research and commonly held belief, that there may not be the need to change your dog’s diet, assuming that you are feeding them a nutritionally adequate diet to begin with.
Prior research, offering a much different view of nutritional needs was presented by Dr. Greg Ogilvie who conducted his research at Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in 1998. Their findings stated:
Dogs and cats with cancer have significant alterations in carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism, which can result in cancer cachexia and subsequently can decrease quality of life, reduce response to therapy, and shorten survival time. Nutritional modulation may be beneficial in the treatment of cancer patients to reverse these metabolic alterations. There is evidence that foods relatively low in simple carbohydrates with moderate amounts of high-quality protein, fiber, and fat (especially fats of the omega-3 fatty acid series) are beneficial for pets with cancer. In addition, certain supplemental nutrients may have potential to reduce the risk of developing cancer, or the growth and metastases of established malignant disease.”
The results of this research served as the foundation for the years of dietary recommendations for dogs with cancer, and led to the creation of the only commercial dog food clinically said to improve outcomes for dogs with lymphoma, nasal and oral cancers – Hill’s n/d (neoplasia diet).


Most of the remaining resources available support Dr. Ogilvie’s position and recommend alterations to your dog’s diet. But given the timing of Dr. Heinze work, it may just be that the new knowledge hasn’t caught up with everyone yet.becca We recommend that you read both studies, share the findings with your family vet and together with them formulate a plan for your pet’s nutrition.
Our dog Becca’s oncologist told us that a low-carb diet would have no impact on her tumor growth, so we did not change her diet when she developed osteosarcoma.  Keep in mind that diet and nutrition are critical for a healthy dog’s well being, so it is doubly important for a dog fighting a battle with cancer.


Many thanks to our sponsors Peggy’s Pet Place and Pooch Smooches for creating this hop and allowing us to honor our dear dogs who have passed from cancer and help others currently dealing with canine cancer.

Share Button


  1. That’s important research in regards to the key of nutrition in cancer. Thanks for sharing.
    Ruckus the Eskie recently posted…Thoughtless Thursday #3: Does Your Sapien Love You More than Their Partner?My Profile

  2. As with humans, the number one thing is to find cancer as early as possible and treat it as best as possible. Sadly, with Trine and pancreatic cancer the diagnosis came too late but that is a tough cancer in humans as well, rarely detected at an early enough stage. Eating well before cancer is also important in hopefully preventing or pushing off the disease, but during cancer it is especially important to have the right diet. Great post.
    emma recently posted…A Doggy Twinhome? | GBGV | Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

  3. Excellent post. A good quality diet is so important for prevention as well as supporting the body in fighting cancer.
    Sue at Talking Dogs recently posted…Canine Oral Melanoma | Give Cancer the PawMy Profile

  4. Interesting! When our first dog had cancer, pretty much everything I read said to go grain free, except for brown rice and oatmeal were okay. But then, simple carbs aren’t really great in normal or cancer situations, so I guess it makes sense that if you are already feeding a healthy diet, you won’t have to make changes. So important to eat healthy and try to keep cancer at bay! Thanks for joining the hop!
    Jackie Bouchard recently posted…Give Cancer the Paw: Putting the Fun in Funding for K9 Cancer ResearchMy Profile

  5. Thank you for this great information, I was scrolling down wondering what I was going to see about Hill’s n/d. Glad you included it and that it shows to help. We recommend this at our clinic and just prescribed some for a dog just diagnosed with cancer.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Mast Cells And BrookeMy Profile

  6. Early diagnosis is definitely key! What an important topic today, thanks so much for sharing your info.
    It’s always good we learn as much as we can about caner……because whether we like it or not, it happens to the best of us.
    ((husky hugz frum da pack))
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Thoughtless Thursday !My Profile

  7. Interesting research. Maybe the new thinking has come about because there are many more healthy choices for maintenance feeding now. But diet was a huge concern for us even just over a year ago when Cosmo was fighting cancer. I tend to think the diet debate came out of a lack of information and research on how to treat canine cancers. So folks would try anything that might help. Hopefully that will continue to improve as more research is conducted.
    Diane recently posted…How You Can Help Save Dogs From CancerMy Profile

  8. Really interesting information. I suppose things will change (or maybe not) in years to come as more is understood about the disease.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Thursday Barks And Bytes–Snow Storm PhotographyMy Profile

  9. My heart goes out to everyone who has had to deal with this… :'(
    Christine and Riley recently posted…Fear, Frustration & Aggression – BAT : A Book ReviewMy Profile

  10. I hope to never need the information but it is certainly good to have it. Thanks!
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Yummies Dog Treats for Valentines DayMy Profile

  11. Very interesting. I had never really heard of any special diets for pet cancer patients when I was working as a vet tech. I wonder how new the n/d is because I’m not really familiar with that one.
    Ann Staub recently posted…I’ve Been Using My Dog’s JoJo Natural Pet Paw Cream… | Review and GiveawayMy Profile

  12. I dread to think about the awful stuff we fed our dog Shelby before and after she had cancer. That was 15 years ago and we just didn’t know any better. I don’t remember the subject ever coming up with our vet at the time either. Times have definitely changed. Who knows whether it made any difference or not, but we never fed that food to any of our other dogs after that, and we have improved the diet of every subsequent dog we’ve had. If, heaven forbid, I ever have another dog with cancer I would definitely want to know as much as possible on the subject so this is great information.
    Jan K recently posted…Give Cancer the Paw – Shelby’s StoryMy Profile

    • Well, it’s the same with people…they keep finding new stop that used to be good for you and now isn’t…but if you wait long enough. I say just feed wholesome, fresh foods as much as you can.
      mkob recently posted…Beginner Plyometric Drills to do at Home with your DogMy Profile

  13. Thanks so much for this information. We haven’t had an experience with canine cancer and I appreciate reading what others have learned, because the sharing keeps me from feeling panicked. I tend to be a worry wart about our dogs.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…Walking Down the Path of Natural Dog Care with Earth HeartMy Profile

Comments are now closed on this post.