Diet plays a very important part in the maintenance of a dog with cancer. The main rule of thumb for feeding your cancer dog, according to Dr. Ogilvie who worked alongside the Morris Animal Foundation, is to feed a diet which consists of limited quantities of simple sugars, moderate amounts of complex sugars, high quality digestible proteins (in moderate amounts), and specific amounts of certain types of fat. His research led to the manufacture of Hill’s Science Diet n/d which is cancer specific.

Simple sugars consists of any processed sugar and fruit sugar. These would include rice syrup, molasses, honey, corn syrup, maple sugar or syrup, glucose, sucrose and dextrose. Almost anything ending in “ose” is considered a simple sugar. More examples of simple sugars would be milk, fruits and vegetables such as carrots, beets, squash, turnip and sweet potatoes. Cancer cells feed on sugar. We are attempting to starve those cells. Complex sugars, which are also called complex carbohydrates, supply muscle energy. Some examples of complex sugars include breads, cereals, grains, rice, potatoes, vegetables, fruits and pasta. Digestible proteins include egg whites, chicken (white meat), lean beef, beans, skim milk and lamb.

Fat is an important part of the diet as it may provide more energy than carbohydrates or proteins. It provides a source of essential fatty acids for healthy skin and coat. It also transports the fat-soluble vitamins A,D,E and K.

If you are fortunate enough to have extra time to cook, homemade is also wonderful.


The following work was originally published by Veterinary Information
Network, Inc. (VIN) and is republished with VIN’s permission:
A balanced homemade formula for dogs with cancer. The following recipe will make three days worth of food for a 25-30 pound dog.

Ingredients Amount:

Lean ground beef, fat drained 454 grams (1 pound)
Rice, cooked 227 grams (1 1/3 cups)
Liver, beef 138 grams (1/3 pound)
Vegetable oil 63 grams (4 ? Tbs)
Fish oil 9 grams (9 1000-mg fish oil capsules)*
Calcium carbonate 3.3 grams**
Dicalcium phosphate*** 2.9 grams (3/4 tsp)
Salt substitute (potassium chloride) 1.9 grams (1/3 tsp)
BNBalanced vitamin/trace mineral supplement
The amount of fish oil that must be added to homemade foods to achieve the total n-3 fatty acid levels in Canine n/d is usually not practical or economical to use. Owners are encouraged to feed the highest fish oil dose tolerated by the dog. Cost is approximately $0.05 to 0.10 per capsule.

** Calcium carbonate is available as oyster shell calcium tablets or Tums tablets (0.5 g in regular Tums, 0.75 g in Tums Extra and 1.0 g in Tums Ultra).
Bone meal can be used in place of dicalcium phosphate.

Cook the rice with salt substitute added to the water.
Cook the ground beef and drain the fat.
Cook the liver and dice or finely chop into small pieces.
Pulverize the calcium carbonate and vitamin/mineral tablets.
Mix the vegetable oil, fish oil (break open capsules) and supplements with the rice and then add the cooked ground beef and liver. Mix well, cover and refrigerate.
Feed approximately one-third of this mixture each day to a 25-30 pound dog.
Palatability will be increased if the daily portion is heated to approximately body temperature

(Caution: when using microwave, avoid “hot spots,” which can burn the mouth). Nutrient Profile (% dry matter basis):
Protein 35.3
Fat 41.6
Carbohydrate 17.8
Calcium 0.65
Phosphorus 0.54
Sodium 0.36
Potassium 0.68
Magnesium 0.05
Energy 1,989 kcal/kg as fed


Client Handouts:  by the VIN Community
Nutritional Alternatives for Cancer Patients
Susan G. Wynn, DVM, OVA

Home Cooking

With the exception of canine lymphoma, there is no accepted dietary
recommendation for cancer patients.  Veterinarians and pet owners
interested in alternatives or complements to conventional practice
often shun commercial diets, and some cancer patients refuse them,
as well.  We have used a variety of home prepared and commercial
diets for our cancer patients.  Based on Oglivie’s work using low
carbohydrate, moderate fat and moderate protein diets for lymphoma
patients (Ogilvie, 1998), we have used homemade diets that reduce
carbohydrates while providing quality protein, presumably
appropriate fat and fatty acid profiles, and high levels of nutrient
rich vegetables.

Rule number one is to KEEP THEM EATING, so we don’t stand on
principle if our patients dislike our cooking.  On the other hand,
the majority of the canine and feline patients appear to improve in
general condition after becoming acclimated to the diet below, and
we assume that their general improvement bodies well for the course
of their disease, at least to optimize survival times.

Here are the guidelines for cooking for cancer patients:

50% fish or poultry
50% mixed frozen or fresh vegetables.
Olive oil as a source of fat calories – about 1 tsp. per 20lbs of
body weight.
A vitamin-mineral supplement according to label directions if a
veterinary product.
A calcium source – preferably from bonemeal or Tums – about 250mg
per 15 pounds of body weight.

Many people use a crock-pot to stew all ingredients together.  Some
prefer to steam the vegetables and the cooked meat and throw
everything into the food mill so that it looks like commercial
canned food.  Raw meat is never recommended for animals undergoing
chemotherapy or who are immunesuppressed in any way.  This recipe is
NOT balanced – the patient and the recipe should be re-evaluated
frequently in order to adjust the recipe according to the animal’s
weight, disease progression, and other changes in condition.

There are a number of spices shown to have anti-neoplastic activity
that will also improve the flavor of this recipe, garlic may induce
differentiation and apoptosis in some tumor cells (Li, 1998),
(Thatte, 2000).  Turmeric, the yellow (and rather mild) spice that
gives curry its yellow color, has recognized preventive activity,
but of importance for cancer patients, turmeric is antioxidant and
induces liver detoxification enzymes (Piper, 1998).  Try FRESH
minced garlic – about 1 clove per 40 lbs. of body weight, and
turmeric, about 1tsp per 50lbs of body weight.


Antioxidants are often recommended for cancer patients; they may
slow proliferation of neoplastic cells and reduce adverse effects of
chemotherapy.  While many believe antioxidants interfere with
chemotherapy, others suggest that they actually enhance the effects
of chemotherapy (Conklin, 2000).  Antioxidants such as Vitamin C, E,
selenium and the antioxidant enzymes are mutually dependent on each
other for their generation and activity.  For this reason,
antioxidants should be provided as a broad spectrum, rather than

Fish oil (salmon or menhaden body oil) appears to have
antiproliferative activity in some tumor cell lines, antimetastatic
activity in laboratory animals, and anti-cachectic activity in human
patients (Rose, 1999), (Sauer, 2000).  It is frequently recommended
for canine and feline cancer patients at a rate of 1 regular
strength capsule (300mg of DHA and EPA) per 15 lbs. of body weight.


None of the nutritional therapies discussed have proven effects,
used alone, in specific cancers of canine or feline patients.  This
author uses them in most clinical cases presented, however, based on
clinical success in the past.  If cancer patients feel good enough
to tolerate the diet change and supplements, this regimen of low
carbohydrate home diet with therapeutic spices, antioxidants and
fish oil can improve and maintain good physical condition.

It is also important to note that due to the various nutritional needs of a cancer dog, a good high-quality dog food should also be served when making homemade.


Not all high priced dog foods equal high-quality. Refer to the following links for more information on this:

What’s getting into your pets?

What’s really in Pet Food?