How to Protect Against Canine Cancer

Changes in diet could increase your dog’s life expectancy.


Q: I lost my 11-year-old Dalmatian, Maxwell, to liver cancer. I am still in shock that he is gone. I have two other Dalmatians, ages 10 and 11. These dogs are like my children. What vitamins, minerals and supplements would help boost their immune systems? I’ve heard mushroom extracts, green tea and fish oil help fight tumors and prevent cancer. I’d like to know what substances are beneficial and in what dosages.

A: I am very sorry to hear about the loss of your dog. Cancer is an insidious disease that avoids detection until it is too late. Often, the side effects of some cancer treatments can be worse than the disease itself.

Many pet-product manufacturers have marketed products that claim to boost the immune system, but currently there is little evidence to support these claims. The Food and Drug Administration does not oversee the use of supplements, minerals, and other over-the-counter medications or neutraceuticals for pets, so it is difficult to know if an ingredient is helpful or harmful to your dog. 

Some human studies have shown that a high-quality diet that contains vitamins, trace minerals and antioxidants may improve life expectancy. I would recommend putting your dogs on a premium food formulated for seniors. Ask your vet or other dog owners for recommendations.

A dietary change that has been shown to extend life expectancy in dogs is introducing a calorie-restricted diet. This conclusion is based on a dietary trial where a group of Golden Retrievers was fed a calorie-restricted diet for their entire lives. They lived an average of one to two years longer than the group that were fed free choice.
Also, make sure your dogs are at an ideal weight and body condition score, have regular veterinary exams (twice a year is now recommended) and are fed a high-quality diet.

Jon Geller, DVM


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RICK   Cleveland, OH

1/1/2011 6:13:31 PM

Great reply. I have two dalmations and work very hard to maintain their overall health. I am also a Nurse Practioner in oncology and get asked similar questions pertaining to humans. What Jon said is the best answer for anyone. Maintaining an idea weight with as little excess fat in the diet is a good start. Making sure that your pups are well exercised, free of mats and bugs, keep nails, ears, and mouth well taken care of, and make sure to give them plenty of love and attention. Dogs, like humans, are social animals and depend on interaction (especially touch) to maintain psychological wellbeing. Like humans depression in any form weakens the ability to fight infection. Ultimately though, the best care is futile against genetics and time. So enjoy your pup while he is with you and appreciate the time spent forging that bond. All too soon they pass on and only the memories remain to sustain us.

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Courtney   Baltimore, MD

4/23/2009 7:36:49 AM

Very helpful, thanks.

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Katie   GR, MI

10/26/2007 6:28:33 AM

Thank you for the good advice.

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Gene   Edgewood, NM

2/9/2007 7:34:01 PM

Doing research on myself,I wondered if the cancer exposure is as high as says and whether this cancer linked peanut(several other nut varieties as well)have ever been researched as causal factors in canines. I fed my rottwieller several types of dog food which apparently have peanut/peanut shell fillers to provide bulk. thanx

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