• Nichole Burik
  • Dog Nutrition & Real Member Service Specialist

  • 4 minutes read time
  • Preventing Dog Cancer - Start with Your Dog's Food Bowl

     Treating and preventing cancer starts with what is in your dog’s bowl. What if I told you that you could decrease your dog’s risk of getting cancer by 70-90%? A study found that Scottish Terriers fed leafy green or orange/yellow vegetables at least three times a week were up to 70-90% less likely to develop bladder cancer. Why? Because they were fed FRESH food! Adding fresh vegetables to a diet is great, but since dogs aren’t designed to digest vegetables unless they are pureed or steamed, replacing fresh veggies with fresh raw meats will work as well and provide a wide variety of nutrients that lack in a kibble diet. The ideal cancer preventing and cancer fighting diet would roughly be made up of: 80% muscle meat, 10% raw edible bone, 5% liver, 5% other secreting organ. Of course this formula varies - some dogs will do better with more bone, less muscle meat, etc. but this is just a starting point. It would be ideal to solely feed a fresh, raw diet to reduce the risk of cancer and help fight cancer, but I understand if you aren’t ready to make that full plunge yet. Luckily, I have a resource for you to help fully transition. In the meantime, just add some fresh food to what you are currently feeding! You just have to start somewhere.

    Here are some examples of the best kinds of fresh food/treats to add to help fight cancer:

    • Organs: The best kind of fresh food to add to a diet! Organs are packed with just about every nutrient, including B vitamins such as B1, B2, B6, folic acid and vitamin B12. Organs are also high in minerals such as phosphorus, iron, copper, magnesium and iodine, and vitamins A, D, E and K. In addition, organ meats are known to have some of the highest naturally occurring Vitamin D and omega 3 fats DHA and EPA. Liver is a crucial organ to feed since it contains building blocks for DNA and RNA, increases strength and endurance, has lots of iron, will help with mental ability and nerve health, and also prevent anemia. Adding 5% of liver in the diet will work wonders for your furry friend.
    • Seafood: Dogs need their omegas and the best way for them to get their omegas is through whole food sources like actual fish versus fish oil or synthetic vitamins (remember, you are trying to stay away from processed foods and fish oil is processed). Fish and other seafood offer anti-inflammatory properties from their omega 3’s that the seafood provides. Bioavailable essential fatty acids in fish can help to heal sore, flaky, damaged or itchy skin as well!
    • Muscle Meat: Adding muscle meat, especially green tripe or heart, is a great way to include fresh food to your dog’s diet. Heart is rich in iron and zinc, and is a great source of thiamin, vitamin B6 and B12, phosphorus, copper and selenium. Green tripe is not only the perfect calcium to phosphorus ratio, but it also has the optimal ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids, making it balanced! Green tripe is acidic in pH, making it easy for your pup to digest and perfect for sensitive tummies.

    So, What is Cancer?

    Cancer is defined as “a disease caused by genetic changes leading to uncontrolled cell growth and tumor formation. The basic cause of sporadic cancers is DNA damage and genomic instability. A minority of cancers are due to inherited genetic mutations.” Although this sounds like cancer is impossible to prevent due to genetics, that is not always the case. 23% of all dogs die of cancer, 45% of dogs over the age of 10 die of cancer, and for some breeds the incidence is as high as 65%. Only 5–10% of all cancer cases in humans can be attributed to genetic defects, and the remaining 90–95% develop from the environment and overall lifestyle (Anand et al. 2008).


    Kibble Plays a Huge Roll

    I mentioned that fighting cancer starts with what’s in your dog’s bowl, but why is that the case? I will start with the fats and oils in processed food such as kibble. Corn, soy, peanut, safflower oil, sunflower oil, beef and chicken fat, vegetable oil – these are all sources of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. Then you take all of these ingredients and extrude them at extremely high heat. A potent carcinogen, Heterocyclic Amines, is formed when protein hits 302 degrees, which it does when it’s in kibble. Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) are formed when food is cooked at high temperatures as well, even when it is pasteurized, sterilized or extruded. When your dog eats the kibble, AGEs transfer into the body and will cause build up leading to inflammation and diseases such as heart, kidney and diabetes.


    In addition to fats and oils, lots of salt and a whole lot of carbohydrates (which break down to sugar) are added in order to bind the ingredients together to form pellets. Carbohydrate production = glyphosate. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup (an herbicide). “Glyphosate is now authoritatively classified as a probable human carcinogen… Regulatory estimates of tolerable daily intakes for glyphosate in the United States and European Union are based on outdated science.” No wonder so many dogs are getting cancer!

    The extrusion process will damage 100% of enzymes - when this happens, your dog’s body’s enzyme potential is depleted and will drain the energy needed to maintain and repair tissue and organ systems which will lead to a shortened life span. Dr. Jeannie Thomason, a Certified Animal Naturopath/natural animal health coach with a doctorate in veterinary naturopathy, states “When proteins are subjected to high heat during cooking, enzyme resistant linkages are formed between the amino acid chains. The body cannot separate these amino acids. What the body cannot use, it must eliminate. Cooked proteins become a source of toxicity: dead organic waste material acted upon and elaborated by bacterial flora.”

    One thing that will not be destroyed in the extrusion process however is the sodium Phenobarbital which is found in the carcasses of any euthanized animals that may have been used for the “meat” in kibble.

    A Weakened Immune System

    Inflammation is the activation of the immune system in response to irritation, infection or injury. Because kibble is so hard to digest and process it causes a short-term dehydrated state in the intestines, making kibble on its own enough to cause inflammation. Since dogs are carnivores and were designed to eat meat, organ and bone, it really is no surprise that so many dogs are developing intolerances and diseases left and right because they are fed processed, dead food day in and day out. A dog with a compromised immune system because they are fed sugary, salty inferior kibble can make the dog more susceptible to disease. On average, dry dog food contains between 46 and 74% carbohydrates, and since we know carbohydrates break down into sugar, we can put the two together and understand that sugar is what feeds the cancer. All cells do need sugar to function but cancer cells use glucose at 10-20 times the rate of normal cells. That being said, when sugar is continually consumed, the cell resistance to insulin builds and more insulin is released into the blood and insulin is a stimulant of cell growth. Since feeding kibble also forces your dog’s body to raid itself of nutrients enzymes, it causes your dog to remain hungry for quality, sustainable nutrients after a typical kibble meal. This will lead to further hunger even though the stomach is full and result in overeating and obesity that is seen in our dogs.

    Dr Karen Becker and Rodney Habib did a video on some popular kibble brands and their sugar content!

    To add to the horror, some kibble manufacturers will use foods dyes which happen to be made from petroleum products - like oil paint. “Red 3 causes cancer in animals, and there is evidence that several other dyes also are carcinogenic… All of the nine currently US-approved dyes raise health concerns of varying degrees.” Artificial colors have been linked to allergies, behavioral problems and even cancer. Over the years the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of many different colors in human foods. Even though the most dangerous artificial colors can no longer be used, some of those still used in both human and pet food, like Red No. 40, have been linked to cancer.

    ...But Don’t Forget the Treats!

    Even if you are feeding a high quality raw diet, if you are still feeding treats that are filled with inferior ingredients, you are contributing to the inflammation build up in your dog’s body. The top 2 best selling treats are Whimzees and Greenies - this is because pet owners choose to believe that these actually help clean their dog’s teeth. The two best selling treats out there have ingredients ranging from potato starch, wheat gluten, oat fiber, glycerin, powdered cellulose and the nasty list goes on. Good news is, if you are feeding dental chews such as Greenies, Whimzees, Dentastix or anything in between, you can ditch those and feed fresh raw meaty bones and chews and avoid a teeth cleaning at your vet!

    They say treats should not make up more than 10% of your dog’s diet, but they say this because the average bag of dog treats will have inferior ingredients on the ingredient list. Personally, I am generous with treats because I feed single ingredient, fresh raw treats and chews from Real Dog Box. Since I incorporate more than 10% of treats in my dogs’ total diet, I just decrease the amount I feed at meal time sometimes. It’s all about balance! I can feed treats without ever feeling guilty or concerned about compromising my dogs’ immune system.

    My pups, Blue and Koda, enjoying their air-dried raw pig foot chews :)

    The thought of your own dog getting cancer is extremely scary and can be overwhelming, but there are ways to help prevent your pup from getting cancer and feeding fresh food is where you can begin first. Whether you want to switch cold turkey and go all raw, add a bit of fresh food into their kibble, or even replace the inferior treats you are feeding for fresh, raw treats that is a start! Food is medicine and we are what we eat, so feed fresh!