Which Proteins are Best for a Dog with Cancer?

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As mentioned in previous posts, I recently consulted with holistic veterinarian Dr. Patrick Mahaney as part of our dog Maggie’s treatment for Osteosarcoma. Dr. Mahaney believes that when treating a serious disease like cancer, a combination of modern medicine and smart nutrition is the best approach to optimize the outcomes.


Maggie has had a series of modern treatments, including stereotactic radiation, chemo therapy, and bone strengthening medicine. We have augmented these treatments with a food and supplement strategy to help Maggie’s body better deal with the inflammation and stresses of the cancer and the treatments themselves.


During my consultations with Dr. Mahaney, one of the primary areas of focus was on the Chinese medicine concept of warming, neutral, and cooling foods. For inflammatory conditions that are “hot” (like cancer), foods that are neutral or cooling are most suitable for the body.


Dry Food vs. Wet Food from a Chinese Medicine Perspective

Dr. Mahaney explained that dry food is the “warmest” form of dog food and that at a minimum, water should be added to kibble to moderate its warming effect. Wet/moist foods are more cooling than kibbles. For this reason, 100% kibble diets are not optimal for pets with inflammatory illness.


Proteins from a Chinese Medicine Perspective

Because protein is the lynchpin of a dog’s diet, we discussed at great length the various types of proteins that are common in pet food, which ones we feed to Maggie, and which ones we should avoid. Thankfully, our protein choices have been good in the sense that most of the proteins that Maggie eats already are cooling to neutral. This is a byproduct of our decision to choose a rotational feeding strategy with a focus on fish and somewhat novel proteins.


Below is a summary of many of the common proteins in pet food, and how they slot into the three Chinese medicine food categories.


Cooling Proteins– turkey, duck, rabbit, fish (e.g., salmon, pollack, tuna, herring, whitefish), yogurt, cottage cheese.


Neutral Proteins– beef, pork, chicken eggs, beef liver, pork liver


Warming Proteins– chicken, lamb, venison.



As I reported last week, chicken is in 68%, lamb is in 17% and venison is in 4% of all dog foods which means that, not accounting for overlap, a pet parent dedicated to feeding neutral or cooling proteins to their dog would have to eliminate about 89% of all dog food recipes from consideration! That certainly does present a challenge, but I would argue that it is worth the extra effort to help keep the dog’s body in optimal health.


One last point that the doctor mentioned about proteins was that non-specific protein “meals” (e.g. bone meal, animal by product meal) should be avoided and that meals in general are not as cooling as their more natural whole protein counterparts due to the extra processing involved in creating the meal.


Next week, I will examine the common fruits and vegetables in dog food, and then, how these slot into the different Chinese medicine categories.


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  1. that was interesting to read, many thanks. is it possible to prevent cancer when we pick only “cool food” ?
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog MISCHIEF MOANDAYMy Profile

  2. Interesting. I am always so fascinated by things like this and learning more about how to achieve optimum health for each individual body!!
    Julie recently posted…I see heartsMy Profile

  3. Interesting about the proteins!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Help! My Dogs Stole My Couch!My Profile

  4. As I mentioned, Bentley is on mostly cool proteins and it has been a great help with his ear infections. His entire body is cooler to the touch. I discovered these proteins after speaking with a holistic vet. It was also after my son gave me a bunch of venison! LOL!
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Whimsical WhimzeesMy Profile

  5. Interesting! Turkey and duck are among the cooling proteins yet chicken is among the warming ones. I wonder why that is? They’re all fowl of one sort or another. I can understand the “meals” being warming with all the added processing that goes into their preparation. Thank you for this info!!
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky\’s Mom recently posted…Ducky’s Disappearance/Shadow’s NonchalanceMy Profile

  6. I had heard of the concept of warm and cool proteins, but didn’t know where the different meats fell. This is definitely something I want to be aware of, since we want to be sure that Sheba stays cancer free. Reading Melissa’s comments, it seems like this helps other conditions as well?
    Jan K recently posted…Senior Silliness in Adopt a Senior Pet MonthMy Profile

  7. You should really start your own line of SlimDoggy food. This is all so complicated but if you had SlimDoggy food with the right stuff, no one would need to worry! We will help market it!
    Emma recently posted…Spoil Your Dog With #PetSmartGroomingMy Profile

  8. I’ve been choosing cooling or neutral ingredients for Jasmine and now for both Cookie and JD. I don’t see too many occasions where a dog would actually require warming ingredients with the prevalence of inflammatory conditions of all sorts. Though I’m sure some dogs do benefit from warming foods. The only chicken Cookie gets is every now and the. When we have some and raw chicken feet for snacks.
    Jana Rade recently posted…To Breathe or Not To Breathe: Cookie’s Hind Legs Transiently Fail to Work (Again)My Profile

  9. As a strong proponent of Chinese Medicine in humans, this was incredibly fascinating. Good for you and good for Maggie. 😉

  10. Fascinating. Bless you for doing this research, and bless you for loving Maggie so so much. I am learning tons during this series and sharing it as much as I can. Have a healthy and fun weekend Slim.

  11. this was interesting, I’m so glad Maggie is doing so well.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Burrs, Brambles And Stick Tights Removed Easily With GoPetsMy Profile

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