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Nutrition for Dogs with Cancer

Nutrition for Dogs with Cancer

Feb 13, 2021

Lew Olson

This article is a review of five theories on nutrition in dogs with cancer. It is hoped by reading and reviewing these concepts, that a better understanding of the dogs nutritional needs will be understood. Most of the concepts are similar, and at the end of the article, I will present a sample diet containing most of the ideas.

This is by no means meant to be recommended, but will attempt to combine the concepts presented by each theory. Most of these theories seem to agree that a fresh, natural diet works best for the cancer patient.

Dr. Gregory K. Ogilvie, from Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine, edited by Allen M. Schoen, D.V.M. MS and Susan Wynn, D.V.M. Mosby Press, St. Louis, 1999.
Dr. Ogilvie’s article, “Nutritional Approaches to Cancer Therapy,” covers a wide spectrum of tests using various diets in dogs with and without cancer. He reports that one of the biggest problems in dogs with cancer is cachexia, or progressive involuntary weight loss. He states that cachexia leads to decreased quality of life, decreased response to treatment and shortened survival time.
Cachexia is caused by the tumors and treatments alike, and is caused by metabolic alterations to the dogs system. Dr. Ogilvie feels diet can help in cancer treatment, and outlines the differences in dogs with cancers ability to metabolize carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Dr. Ogilvie reports that tumors need glucose to live, which are simple sugars found in many carbohydrates. It gives energy to the tumor, and robs energy from the dog. Further, tests conducted proved that the dogs ability to metabolize carbohydrates is altered in dogs with cancer, unlike the dogs tested who did not have cancer. He recommends that dogs with cancer have a reduced amount of carbohydrates in their diet, and further states that the use of lactated Ringer’s Solution can give tumors energy and food to grow. He reports it is best not to use these, unless medically indicated.
There is a competition between the dog and cancer for the amino acids found in proteins. Dr. Ogilvie states that it is a good idea to provide high quality proteins and amino acids to dogs with cancer. Tests have shown that some amino acids decrease toxicity in the dogs body. Two amino acids noted in particular are arginine (enhances the immune system) and glutamine (which aids in maintaining health of the gastrointestinal tract. Glutamine can also help with vomiting and diarrhea associated with chemotherapy.
Not only do dogs have metabolism differences with carbohydrates, but they also show abnormalities in lipid metabolism. These abnormalities contribute to immune suppression. Malignant cells cannot use lipids for energy, so Dr. Ogilvie suggests adding much more fat to a dogs diet, and in particular, the essential fatty acid, Omega-3. He not only states that Omega-3 fatty acids will help a dog with energy, but can actually help stop tumor growth.
Foods rich in Omega-3 include Flax Seed Oil, salmon and other cold water fishes. He does suggest to limit the amount of Omega-6 fatty acids, as it has proven in his tests that these oils can cause cancer to grow faster. Those oils would include GLA’s, or primrose oils, borage oil and black current oil.
Vitamins and Minerals
The list of these that Dr. Ogilvie recommends are:
– Vitamin A
 Vitamin C
– Vitamin E
– Selenium
– Iron
Miscellaneous nutrients suggested are:
– glutamine
– arginine
– therapeutic enzymes, especially those containing L-asparaginase
– Garlic
– Green and Black Tea
Pat Lazarus, Keep Your Pet Healthy the Natural Way, Keats Publishing Incorporated, New Canaan, Conn, 1983.
Pat Lazarus’s book is fairly timely and concurrent with more recent publications. She has compiled several chapters on diets and diseases from interviews with several nutrition minded holistic veterinarians from around the country. All agree that a fresh food diet is the first defense against cancer. She also lists several supplements that are like Dr. Ogilvie’s.
These include:
Vitamin A – to rebuild the immune system and remove toxins from the body
Vitamin B – to enhance appetite, well-being, to detox the liver and protect the nervous system
Vitamin C – Same as vitamin A
Vitamin E – Same as vitamins A and C
Pancreatic enzymes – it is reported these can help break down the outer lining of the cell wall of the cancer tumors, and aid in digestion
She also quotes Dr. H.H. Robertson D.V.M., Dr. Richard J. Kearns D.V.M. and Drs. Marty and Robert Goldstein D.V.M.s as stating an alkaline condition in the dogs body aids in tumor growth, and it is important to put a better alkaline-acidic condition back into the dog. They all state use of mega doses of Vitamin C can help increase this acidity.
Dr. Robertson also feels that Bromelain is the best enzyme to use for breaking down the outer wall of the cancer cell.
Dr. John Craige also states as dogs are carnivores, it is best to raise the amount of protein for best cancer fighting abilities.
Dr. Michael Lemmons and Dr. Kearns recommend using glandular supplements for the particular affected area. Raw Thymus is especially mentioned, to enhance the immune system.
I think that this book is very good, especially in light of when was written! Dr. Richard H. Pitcairn D.V.M. and Susan Hubble Pitcairn, Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, Rodale Press, Emmaus, Pennsylvania, 1995.
Although Dr. Pitcairn does not mention a specific diet, he does stress the need for a home made dinner for best results. He also states that distilled water is the best for pets with cancer. He cautions against giving any vaccines to dogs with compromised immune systems, and says to give a dog with cancer a vaccine is like “pouring gasoline on a fire.”
He recommends Goldenseal as an herbal treatment, and also lists five homeopathic remedies. I will list these, but I would advise any pet owner to consult with a homeopathic veterinarian before administering any of them:
– Natrum muriat
– Thuja occidentalis icum
– Silicea
– Conium maculatum
– Phosphorus
Lastly, Dr. Pitcairn outlines the usefulness of vitamins A, E and C.
Cheryl Schwartz D.V.M., Four Paws Five Directions, Celestial Arts, Berkeley, California, 1996.
This book is directed to Chinese Medicine for cats and dogs. She has a very good section on specific nutrients for pets with cancer, and also stresses fresh whole foods. She states to avoid preservatives and looks at the five elements in Chinese medicine to help with this disorder. I would suggest the reader pick up her book for further details and instructions.
I will list her recommendations for supplements, to enhance the immune system. These include:
 Vitamin C (sodium ascorbate). She suggests dosing to bowel tolerance
– Bioflavonoid with Quercitin. Good for enhancing absorption of vitamin C and allergic reactions
– Vitamin E with Selenium. Works as an anti-inflammatory agent, and is good for the skin. Selenium helps increase the value of vitamin E
– Vitamin A with mixed carotenes, including betacarotene. Good for lung problems, and she reports cod liver oil is a good source, and cod liver oil also contains Omega-3 fatty acids
– Microalgae. This would include blue green algae, Spirulina and other sea foods
– Vitamin B complex and B12
 Kelp Powder
– Acidophilous and Bifidus combinations. Necessary for the good flora and fauna, and to keep toxic flora at bay
– Super Oxide Dismutase (SOD). This helps remove toxins from the system Essential Fatty Acids. Removes toxins and regulates autoimmune diseases
Wendy Volhard and Kerry Brown D.V.M., A Holistic Guide For A Healthy Dog, Howell Book House, New York, 1995.
Although this book spends much of it’s pages on diet and explaining nutrients, it does not discuss a diet specific for cancer. However, it is a good book for explanations of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and other nutrients. Volhard does list several good herbs for cancer. These include:
– Dandelion
– Echinacea
– Pau D’arco
– Red clover
– Garlic
– Essiac Tea (burdock, sheep sorrel, rhubarb and elm)
These herbs are good immune enhancers, and are also good for cleansing the blood. They can be found at most good health food stores or mail order companies.
Some Diet Considerations for a Dog with Cancer
Using the ideas from the sources listed earlier in this article, I have developed a fresh food diet, along with supplements. Since two of the books addressed high protein and high Omega-3 fatty acids, (as indicated in Dr. Ogilvie’s studies) that is the direction this diet will follow.
This diet will contain no grains or milk products. None of the books offered a breakdown of percentages of proteins, fats or carbohydrates, although it appears a majority of fats and proteins are best indicated for a dog with cancer.
Protein sources:
– raw chicken, either whole pieces or ground, with bone (leave skin on)
– beef chunks
– raw liver, either chicken or beef
– canned salmon, mackerel and sardines
– raw eggs
Fat sources:
– The fats in the chicken, beef, canned fish and eggs.
– Flax Seed Oil
 Salmon Oil
I would limit these to less than one-third of the diet, or less.
Lightly steamed or pulped, as in a food processor:
– broccoli
– celery
– cabbage (red and green)
– bok choy
– collards
– turnip greens
– spinach
– summer squash (zucchini and crook neck)
– chinese cabbage
AVOID sweet vegetables, such as carrots, green peas, potatoes, yams, pumpkin and corn
AVOID fruits, although occasional fruit is fine.
Amounts in the dogs diet will vary, and it is wise to remember that fresh food contain more water than dry kibble. Start slowly with this diet, but the sooner the dog can be switched over, the better success is reported for health.
Supplements for Small Dogs
Vitamin A: 1,000 mg twice a day
Vitamin C: 500 mg twice a day
Bioflavonoid & Quercitin: 1/4 human dose
Vitamin E: 50 IUs twice a day
Vitamin B complex: 1/4 human dose
Selenium: 10 mcg
Bromelain: 50 mg twice a day
Digestive enzymes with pancreatin: 1/4 human dose
Glutamine: 1/4 human dose
Arginine: 1/4 human dose
Berte’s Green Blend: As directed
Flax Seed Oil: 1 tsp. twice a day
Ultra ProBiotic Powder: As directed
Garlic: 1/4 chopped Clove
Supplements for Medium Dogs
Vitamin A: 2,500 mg twice a day
Vitamin C: 1,000 mg twice a day
Bioflavonoid & Quercitin: 1/2 human dose
Vitamin E: 200 IUs twice a day
Vitamin B complex: 1/2 human dose
Selenium: 25mcg
Bromelain: 100 mg twice a day
Digestive enzymes with pancreatin: 1/2 human dose
Glutamine: 1/2 human dose
Arginine: 1/2 human dose
Berte’s Green Blend: As directed
Flax Seed Oil: 1/2 tbs. twice a day
Ultra ProBiotic powder: As directed
Garlic: 1/2 chopped Clove
Supplements for Large Dogs
Vitamin A: 5,000 mg twice a day
Vitamin C: 2,000 mg twice a day
Bioflavonoid & Quercitin: Human dose
Vitamin E: 400 IUs twice a day
Vitamin B complex: Human dose
Selenium: 50mcg
Bromelain: 200 mg twice a day
Digestive enzymes with pancreatin: Human dose
Glutamine: Human dose
Arginine: Human dose
Berte’s Green Blend: As directed
Flax Seed Oil: One tablespoon a day
Ultra ProBiotic Powder: As directed
Garlic: One or two chopped Cloves
B-Naturals currently offers a new product called Berte’s Immune Blend, containing all the above supplements, in one handy container. This blend is mixed with dissicated liver to tempt the most fussy eater.
These are herbs that have been listed for immune boosting, please use the tinctures for best results. Look for glycerine based tinctures for dogs. Some of these may be found in combinations for easier administering.
– Goldenseal
– Echinacea
– Dandelion
– Pau D’Arco
– Red Clover
– Essiac Tea (a premixed tea for brewing)
Herbs are best used five days, and then a rest, so the body will not become accustomed to them. If in doubt, an herbalist or holistic vet can help with questions on these. Most tinctures are given at one half dropper for large dogs, one fourth dropper for medium dogs, and less for small dogs.
Mary Wulff-Tilford, an Herbalist from Animals’ Apawthecary, states that animals may need more frequent dosage of tinctures than humans, due to their higher metabolism. She reports several administrations of the tincture a day may be more effective for dogs.
There are many other supplements that have been indicated for immune boosting and cancer, but what I have presented here is what the five sources have recommended. None of these claim to ‘cure’ cancer, but it may prolong life and comfort, and through testing, a higher chance of remission has been reported by Dr. Ogilvie using diets high in Omega-3 fatty acids with less simple carbohydrates.
Remember to consult with your veterinarian, and seek consultation with a holistic veterinarian who works with canine nutrition if you choose to use these techniques. For the name of a holistic veterinarian near you, check this website: Holistic Veterinarians
Any other ideas, suggestions or research would be appreciated on a diet for dogs with cancer, and I will add them to this site.
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