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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

11 Cancer-Fighting Foods for Dogs

Keep your best friend by your side for as long as possible by including these healthy ingredients in your pup’s diet.

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Understanding cancer in dogs

Just as it is for humans, cancer is one of the leading causes of death for canines. Similarly, the exact causes of cancer in dogs remain elusive. What we do know, however, is that taking steps toward a healthier lifestyle can help curb some of the most common forms. “For instance, secondhand smoke, sun exposure, and hormone production are respectively associated with lymphoma, skin cancer, and breast (mammary) cancer in dogs,” says Sue Downing, DVM, a veterinarian and board-certified oncologist for the VCA Animal Specialty and Emergency Center in Los Angeles. “Therefore, cancer risk can be lowered by avoiding secondhand smoke, limiting midday sun exposure, and spaying female dogs at an early age.”

Additionally, maintaining an ideal body weight reduces a dog’s risk of developing cancer, according to Dr. Downing. Part of that means feeding your pup high-quality foods—and the right kind of high-quality foods. While no foods will outright prevent cancer, of course, some ingredients can help your dog have a happy, healthy life and even lower your dog’s chances of developing this disease. Here are 30 things your dog wishes you knew.

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Chicken and beef

A good rule of thumb when feeding your pet: Stick with the basics—high-quality basics, but basics nonetheless. “The ideal canine diet should be made by a well-established manufacturer using common protein sources such as chicken or beef and containing grains including wheat, corn, and rice,” says Dr. Downing. While dogs don’t absolutely need meat in order to survive (unlike cats, which are obligate carnivores), they instinctively scavenge for meat, and the proteins help keep them strong and healthy.

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Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in fish oil, are key to your health, and the same good-for-you ingredients are also great for your pup. “Fish oil has many positive health benefits for a dog’s skin and coat, and it supports the overall function of many vital organs,” says Shelly Zacharias, DVM, a veterinarian and the vice president of medical affairs at Gallant. “Further, omega-3 fatty acids have been found to slow the growth of tumors and reduce inflammation, which is an important aspect of controlling many types of cancer.” Don’t miss these signs that your “healthy” dog is showing illness symptoms.

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Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant, says Dr. Downing, and as such, it boasts anti-cancer properties. “It’s an extract of the spice turmeric and does require extensive processing to reach an effective level in the diet,” she explains. One very important note: Curcumin is safe for dogs only in small and controlled quantities. There are a number of dog treats and supplements that carefully incorporate this ingredient, and experts recommend going this route. Two options include Zesty Paws Turmeric Curcumin Bites and Terry Naturally Animal Health Curacel Curcumin Optimal Cellular Support.

View from above bowl with turmeric powder next to another bowl with turmeric root on brown wooden table.Freestocker/Getty Images


Speaking of turmeric, this antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredient is also considered key in reducing your canine’s chances of developing cancer. “Oxidative damage to our cells is harmful and may contribute to mutation of the genetic material in cells, but if we can reduce oxidative damage, then we can potentially reduce the risk of the development of cancer,” explains Wailani Sung, DVM, veterinary behaviorist for Chewy.

Though you may think that sprinkling turmeric over your dog’s food is the way to go, this isn’t ideal. The primary reason is that it won’t be absorbed well by your pup. Instead, Dr. Sung recommends finding turmeric-infused foods and treats, such as Honest Paws Tasty Turmeric-Flavored Hemp Dog Bites. There are also DIY recipes you can try for delicious pastes and treats your dog will happily eat.

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Medicinal mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms that contain lectins, β-glucans, and PSK (polysaccharide K) are very important ingredients when it comes to preventing cancer. According to Dr. Sung, “Lectin can help stop the growth of cancer cells and may aid in killing them, β-glucans stimulate the immune cells and have an anti-inflammatory effect, and PSK has been used in human cancer trials. It has been found to increase survival, decrease recurrence, and stimulate the immune system.”

Dr. Downing adds that common medicinal mushrooms include reishi, turkey tail, shiitake, and maitake. Mushrooms are a recommended dietary ingredient for humans, too, and even boast anti-aging properties. Like turmeric and curcumin, it’s best to incorporate this ingredient into your dog’s diet via a premade product, such as Zesty Paws Select Essentials Mushroom Bites or NaturVet Mushroom Max Advanced Immune Support.

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Blueberries and blackberries

Blueberries and blackberries are also robust antioxidants. They contain anthocyanins, which have anti-inflammatory properties. “Some lab tests have shown that blueberries may improve or prevent some types of cancer, and the USDA has ranked blackberries as a top antioxidant food,” says Dr. Zacharias. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), fresh and frozen blueberries are OK to give—in moderation, of course. In general, treats (of any kind) should only make up 10 percent of your dog’s diet. Of course, some treats are a big no-no, including these 12 common foods that could be toxic for dogs.

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Vitamin D

Studies have found that those with lower levels of vitamin D had a higher risk of developing different types of cancer, notes Dr. Sung. Plus, she adds, “calcitriol, a derivative of vitamin D, has anti-tumor properties that slow or stop the growth of cancer cells. Potential supplementation may help slow or stop cancer from developing.” Foods like salmon, mushrooms, and eggs are naturally rich in vitamin D. Make sure you also check out these healthy dog treats to help your pup live a longer, happier life.

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Broccoli is another cancer-fighting food for dogs. Dr. Zacharias says that this cruciferous vegetable is rich in glucosinolates, which break down into anti-cancer compounds. “These compounds are involved in apoptosis (cell death) of harmful cells and help prevent angiogenesis (blood vessel formation). This is important because we want to prevent blood vessels from growing in tumors, which then ‘feeds’ tumor growth,” she explains. As with other ingredients we’ve listed here, careful moderation is important. Though it’s a tasty snack in small quantities, too much can cause some gastro upset in pups, according to the AKC.

Psst! Have you ever wondered why you’ve never seen canned broccoli?

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An antioxidant blend of vitamins C and E, taurine, lutein, lycopene, and β-carotene

One study performed by Waltham supplemented the dogs’ diet with this antioxidant combination and found decreased DNA damage and improved immune response. In other words, the levels of antioxidants produced by the ingredients had a protective effect against DNA damage,” says Dr. Sung. “It is not clear if supplementation with only one of these ingredients would have similar effects on the dogs’ health. However, use of these ingredients together may provide a preventative measure against the development of cancer.” The best way to incorporate these ingredients is via their regular food or a supplement, such as Victor Hi-Pro Plus Formula Dry Dog Food and VetriScience Cell Advance 880 Immune Health Capsules for Dogs. Next, learn the 9 trusted tips to help your pet live longer.

Wendy Rose Gould
Wendy Rose Gould is a Phoenix-based veteran lifestyle reporter covering home and garden, pets, wellness and travel for outlets such as Martha Stewart Living, Real Simple, Insider and Reader's Digest. She received her bachelor's degree from Franklin College of Indiana's Pulliam School of Journalism, graduating magna cum laude. She has a second bachelor's degree in Philosophy.