Nutrition Fundamentals For Dogs With Cancer

Cancer is an emotionally triggering keyword whenever it comes up in conversation, and is a feared medical diagnosis by many. But what many people don’t know is that canine cancer is a cause for concern for many of our furry best friends. There have not been many studies done on whether or not cancer is on the rise in our beloved pets, both feline and canine, but there does seem to be a recent increase in male dogs receiving a cancer diagnosis.

There are 3 pillars of nutrition that can be implemented to give your dog that extra boost as he or she fights their battle with cancer.

1. It is important to ensure that your dog does not go into a nutritional deficit.

Treatments may be causing food aversions or vomiting, it is important that every bite counts! Check that the food you are feeding your dog is nutritionally dense, full of healthy calories and all the vitamins and minerals they need. It may be tempting to encourage your dog to fill up on treats or even to allow them to eat whatever foods of your table they enjoy, but this can lead to an unbalanced diet that results in either an overweight or undernourished pet.

2. Provide nutrition for Immune System Support.

So what minerals or vitamins are essential for supporting your dog’s immune system as they undergo cancer treatment? Omega 3 fatty acid oils are one of the most valuable weapons in your cancer-fighting arsenal, so you’ll want to speak to your veterinarian about the recommended daily amount for your dog, and how to effectively give it to them. Some dog foods by themselves will allow your dog to ingest the recommended daily amount, while others may need supplementation from either fish or flaxseed oils, but no matter what method you use to supply your dog’s immune system with those omega 3’s, make sure they are from a high-quality source. Antioxidants are shown to enhance the effectiveness of certain cancer treatments, so speak to your doctor about the possibility of antioxidant supplementation in your dog’s diet.

3. Lower Carbohydrate content.

A third and crucial fundamental is lowering the carbohydrate content of your canine’s foodbowl. This is a simple way to ensure your pet is receiving the most nutritionally dense, cancer-fighting meal. Dogs are not grain-eaters by nature, and carbohydrates have been shown to increase inflammation and actually feed the tumor, rather than the dog. Many commercial dog foods contain high percentages of low-grade carbohydrate fillers of the cereal-grain variety. Make it your aim to feed your dog with a high-protein, low-carb diet that will give your pet the energy he needs to fight the cancer while refraining from fueling the cancer itself.

So you’ve noticed some concerning symptoms in your dog, and have taken them to the vet. You’ve received the horrible news that your dog is a victim of canine what?

There are three treatment options that are similar to the options for humans with cancer: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.


Addressing the cancer with surgery is the most common solution used effectively with animals with cancer; more recently it is being combined with either chemotherapy or radiation treatments. If the cancer has been caught early on, before it has had time to spread, surgery can be a fairly simple and efficient way to remove the cancerous tumor before it impacts quality or longevity of life.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is another alternative, often used in conjunction with both chemotherapy and surgery. Radiation therapy is a longer process, requiring sessions over a month or two. This allows the unhealthy cells to be killed while allowing the healthy cells to grow and strengthen. There are some difficult side effects from radiation therapy depending on the area being treated. Often the interior of the mouth, the lining of the esophagus, and the intestines take particular strain.


Finally, chemotherapy is a third choice of controlling the cancer; not all cancers respond well to chemo, and often it is used to limit the spread of the cancer, rather than to kill it. The side effects of chemotherapy are fairly common knowledge, but what may come as a surprise is that generally animals, particularly dogs, seem to hold up better under the strain than most humans do. Dogs usually do not suffer hair loss or severe nausea and vomiting, although they often do experience a lack of appetite, and occasional vomiting.

No matter what treatment path you and your canine choose to walk, it will be vital to support their nutritional needs throughout. This can be particularly difficult as certain cancer cures cause nausea and vomiting, sensitive esophaguses and irritated digestive tracts. Just as with any sickness, your dog’s body will need extra nutritional support to fight off the cancer effectively.

Discovering that your dog has cancer can be scary and much of your journey helping your dog become cancer-free will be out of your hands and out of your control, but choosing how to nutritionally support your canine will enable you to become involved in giving them their best shot at a long and happy life. 

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