Care and Feeding of the Canine Cancer Patient

By Dr. Gail Mason, DVM, MA, DACVIM and Kathi Smith, RVT, Internal Medicine & Oncology Technician

Cancer treatment will no doubt have effects on both the normal and malignant cells of your dog’s body. However, there are several ways in which we can minimize side effects of therapy and promote a fairly normal lifestyle for your dog.


The burden of malignancy alone can cause a negative nutritional status in both humans and animals. This, coupled with potential side effects of certain chemotherapeutics can accelerate loss of body condition. Providing adequate caloric intake is important in preventing ongoing energy losses. Calories alone do not tell the whole story. It has been convincingly shown in human and animal cancer patients that cancer survival is enhanced if the diet is:

  • Low fat
  • Low carbohydrate
  • High protein (at least 21%)
  • Has adequate fiber levels
  • N-3 omega fatty acid enhanced

The suggested daily caloric intake is [1.1 x {30(patient weight in kilograms)} + 70]. Some commercial foods that we have found to provide close to the above profile include:

  • MaxCal by IAMS
  • Duck & Potato by Innovative Vet. Diets
  • Canine Nutral Select by Innovative Vet. Diets

Based on recent and current research, we are also recommending:

  • Fish oil or marine oil supplementation 500-1000mg daily (in pharmacies or grocery stores)
  • Antioxidant therapy – a human combination product such as Protegra (adult label dose) or CAS options – a veterinary compounded formula that is available from us

Antioxidants and fish oils are generally used after week 4 of chemotherapy is completed. Theoretically, this reduces the chances of rescuing the malignant cells during the initial drug-induced damage.