I didn't switch my dogs to a raw food diet to protect them against cancer; I switched because Rodrigo had a list of chronic illnesses and allergies. He was a hot mess, and I wondered if raw dog food was the answer. It was, and today, Rodrigo is doing great!
Over the years, I've learned a lot about raw feeding and dog nutrition, including foods and supplements that may prevent canine cancer.
Is this real?
If you had asked me this a few years ago, I would have called BS on any claim that food could prevent cancer, however, over the years, I've seen miracles happen with both dogs and humans. We're constantly learning new things about health and nutrition, and the one thing that rings true is that disease and obesity in humans have grown since the advent of processed foods. Is it a surprise to think eating healthy and exercising would protect us against disease and obesity? I don't think so.
And over the past five years, I've learned that what is true for humans may be true for our dogs.
Foods that May Prevent Dog Cancer
Here is a list of foods that folks are saying help our bodies build up a strong gut and immune system that may protect our dogs against cancer. What I found interesting is that many of these foods are a great source of probiotics. Most of the longest living pets had a healthy gut biome – so maybe there's something to this after all.
1 – A Species Appropriate Diet or Raw Dog Food
Of course, the first thing on the list is raw feeding. Sadly, a diet of dry dog food or canned, which is also highly processed, isn't conducive to a cancer-free life, especially if you're raising a dog (or breed) prone to cancer. A species appropriate diet helps to boost gut health, which in turn boosts the immune system. Ideally, we'd feed a 100% organic diet. However, that's not always financially feasible.
What is a species appropriate diet? – This is a diet that is biologically appropriate for our dogs and includes raw muscle meat, bone, organs, fermented vegetables, raw eggs, raw fish and more depending on your dog's needs.
Where do you get your raw meat? – There are many places to source the ingredients in a raw diet. I order 95% of my dogs' food through a local raw food co-op.
Is raw feeding expensive? – It can be if you have big dogs and you're feeding 100% premade (commercial) raw dog food. There are many ways to save money on raw dog food.
How do I transition my dogs to a raw diet? – There are many ways to transition to raw feeding. I started my dogs on premade raw and then switched to DIY raw dog food.
2 – Leafy Greens – Kale, Spinach, and Collard Greens
Okay, so this is crazy cool. I know leafy greens were rich in antioxidants (vitamin C and beta-carotene), which are believed to help fight cancer. I know that leafy greens are low-calorie foods, which are great for losing weight, and staying slim and trim (obesity brings with it a higher chance of cancer). What I didn't know was that leafy greens also contain antiviral and antibacterial properties and they help reprogram cancer cells so that they die off while preventing the formation of tumors!
Bring on the kale!
3 – Cruciferous Vegetables – Cabbage, Broccoli, Zucchini, Asparagus
These foods are rich in antioxidants that do a great job of protecting the body from cancer by tracking down and destroying the free radicals that damage cells and cause cancer. Along with the leafy greens, I ferment cabbage, broccoli, zucchini, and asparagus for my dogs. This makes the vegetables easier to digest and fermenting them provides a natural source of probiotics, which support gut health and the immune system.
4 – Blueberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, and Strawberries
I grow all of these berries on our property, and our dogs love them and eat them straight from the plant or vine. Berries are another food that is high in antioxidants. They also have antifungal and antiviral properties that help to boost immune system health. I DO NOT ferment berries because I'm worried that the process would create an alcoholic beverage, so my dogs get fresh berries instead.
5. Herbs/Spices – Golden Paste, Parsley, Ginger, and Garlic
I add golden paste to my dogs' diet daily, both meals. The active ingredient, curcumin, is said to be able to decrease tumor size while fighting cancer. I know that parsley is great for joints, ginger is great for tummy health, and garlic acts as a natural flea repellent (yes, garlic is safe for dogs when you get the dosage right). What I learned when researching this blog post was that these foods also support immune system health; so do the herbs basil and oregano. I recommend always going with fresh herbs instead of buying dried spices.
How much garlic can we give to our dogs? According to The Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, the serving recommendation for dogs by their size is as follows:
- 10 to 15 lbs – 1/2 a clove
- 20 to 40 lbs – 1 clove
- 45 to 70 lbs – 2 cloves
- 75 to 90 lbs – 2-1/2 cloves
- 100 lbs or more – 3 cloves
6 – Probiotics – Kefir and Fermented Foods
Did you know that 80% of our immune system is parked in our gut? I imagine that the same can be said for our dogs. Two natural sources of probiotics that I add to my dogs' diet include fermented vegetables and kefir.
- I add a tablespoon of fermented vegetables to one meal per day
- I add three tablespoons of kefir to a raw meal when I feed the dogs
I've been drinking kombucha, a yummy drink made by fermenting sweet tea, regularly too and I'm considering expanding my DIY and making kombucha at home for the dogs and me.
7 – Chia and Sunflower Seeds
These and other seeds are being credited for protecting us from cancer. I ferment chia and sunflower seeds for my dogs. The reason I decided to add seeds to their diets is that they're high in fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids. I ferment a small jar at a time – it only takes a couple of days – mush them into a paste, and add a small amount to m dogs' food a couple of days a week.
8 – Fatty Fish – My Dogs Love Sardines
And speaking of Omega-3 fatty acids, don't forget the fish! Omega-3 fatty acids are a natural anti-inflammatory and boost immune system health along with brain health, skin and coat health, and nervous system health. Fish oil is great too, but I prefer whole fish because it's fun watching the dogs enjoy chomping them down. You can buy them whole from OC Raw or, if your lucky, your local market may carry them. Look for wild caught fish instead of farmed.
9 – Turkey Tail Mushrooms
Turkey tail mushrooms are being used to strengthen the immune system in humans, and they're working to fight cancer. They also provide another source of probiotics and healthy digestive enzymes – wow, again!!!. When choosing a turkey tail mushroom supplement, it's important to go for a quality brand that grows their own mushrooms. Like with many supplements, if it becomes popular, people start cutting corners. Don't waste your money on a crappy brand.
10 – Unrefined Oils – Coconut Oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
This is another food that supports a healthy gut and immune system, but that's not all. Coconut oil helps our dogs maintain a healthy weight and I read that olive oil helps to reduce inflammation in the body. Interesting. Take care that you don't overdo it when adding oils to your dogs' diet. I give three of my dogs, my active dogs, a tablespoon of coconut oil a few days a week. Sydney isn't a fan of coconut oil, so she only gets it as an ingredient in the golden paste. Shhhh. Don't tell her.
How I Add These Foods to My Dogs' Diet
I was so excited to pull together this list and realize that I add everything to my dogs' raw diet:
- I ferment vegetables (including parsley) and seeds each month; I add raw garlic to my veggie mix when it's complete and before freezing it.
- My dogs eat berries on their own when they're in season.
- My dogs enjoy kefir, I alternate with raw goats milk, several days a week.
- I add raw sardines to their meals several days a week; they love them.
- And I add coconut oil to their diet through the golden paste and as a treat a couple of days each week.
I just started adding a turkey tail supplement to their diet twice daily, and I'm crossing my fingers that I don't lose my source.
Be Your Dog's Advocate
I'm repeating myself again, I know, but this is important and deserves repetition. Our dogs can't speak for themselves. My boyfriend often says that when we decide to bring an animal into our lives and under our care, we have a responsibility to learn everything we can about them and do our best for them. It's not enough to hear about ways to provide better health, better nutrition, and a better environment, then fail to do anything.
We owe it to our dogs to do the best we can given the information we have and the resources available to us.
To learn more about how to raise a healthier dog and how dogs are surviving canine cancer, invest in The Dog Cancer Series.