Nutrition for Dogs and Cats with Cancer

Animals with cancer have an altered carbohydrate metabolism and that by reducing simple carbohydrates in their diet, it may reduce substrate for cancer cell energy production. Many cancer cells cannot use fat as an energy source, unlike host cells. Since cancer cachexia (loss of appetite/weight) is a result of both fat and lean body mass loss, fat should be a significant proportion of the dietary energy. There are commercial diets available as well as well-balanced home cooked diet recipes that fulfill these requirements.



  • Vitamin A: has cytotoxic effects and induces apoptosis (natural cell death). 625-7500 IU/ lb of body wt daily.
  • Vitamin C: inhibit cancer cell proliferation by suppressing free radicals. 20 mg/ lb of body wt daily. (Use in combination with other antioxidants.)
  • Vitamin D3: inhibit tumor growth and metastasis. 10 mg/ lb of body wt daily. (Do not over supplement can become toxic.)
  • Selenium: cytotoxic effects and preventative role in cancer development. 2-5 ug/ lb of body wt daily.

Omega 3 fatty acids:
Inhibit tumor growth and metastasis, inhibit cachexia, and may increase the effectiveness of some chemotherapy drugs. Fish oil – 300 mg EPA and 200 mg DHA/ 10 lb body wt daily.

Amino acids:  

  • Glutathione: intracellular antioxidant and detoxifying agent. Supplementation does not increase levels, however administration of antioxidants increases intracellular glutathione levels.
  • Arginine: enhance immune function and may inhibit tumor growth. 500-3000 mg daily.
  • Glutamine: inhibits tumor growth and cachexia and helps inhibit the adverse effects of chemotherapy. 0.2 g/ lb of body wt daily.
  • Melatonin: cytotoxic effects against cancer cells, antioxidant, increases efficacy of chemotherapy drugs. 0.2 mg/ lb of body wt daily.
  • Inositol Hexaphosphate (IP6, phytate): may beneficially alter signal transduction pathways, cell regulatory genes, oncogenes, and tumor suppressor genes. 10-50 mg/ lb of body wt daily.


  • Garlic: appears to have antioxidant and immune-enhancing mechanisms that are active in treatment of cancer. High doses are likely toxic. One clove per 30 lb body wt daily.
  • Mushroom polysaccharides: Reishi, Shiitake and Maitake mushrooms have immunostimulating and antitumor activity. 20-100 mg/ lb of body wt daily.
  • Curcumin: inhibits tumor growth and metastasis, reduces the side affects of chemotherapy, increase the action of some chemotherapy agents as well as prevent cancer. 15-20 mg/ lb of body wt daily.
  • Ginseng: appears to decrease cancer growth and metastasis, and to enhance immune function and survival times. 25-35 mg/ lb three time daily.

Chemotherapy alternatives:

  • Hydrazine Sulfate: inhibits gluconeogenesis, which is thought to be a primary metabolic pathway for cancer cells. It is also thought to reduce cancer related cachexia and to suppress cancer growth.


It does indeed appear that alternative therapies have something extremely important to offer cancer management, both in the form of additional tools of intervention and, more important, in the form of a new perspective. Alternative and conventional therapeutics may be combined to synergistic advantage to yield greater results than when either therapy used alone. Such synergies might not only assist treatment of the tumor, but also help reduce side effects of conventional therapies.

Author: Colleen Smith, DVM