Did You Know That This Dog Food You Use May Cause Cancer

You likely know that some things are dangerous for your dog, like certain toxins or metals, and you want to do your best to prevent your dog from getting exposed to carcinogens. But it can be scary to realize how many carcinogens may also be present in your dog’s diet. 

The last thing you want to hear is the question, “Did you know that this dog food you use may cause cancer?” as a friend examines your pet food choices. Learn what may cause cancer in your dog in order to make choices to prevent it.

Did You Know That This Dog Food You Use May Cause Cancer?

Unfortunately, many dog foods on the market, while highly advertised and expensively priced, may not be the best choice for your dog. Some foods may lead to cancer for your dog. 

Raw dog food

Raw dog food is more likely to contain bacteria and viruses than other food. In fact, most raw food manufacturers publish how much bacteria to expect in a given batch. Some bacteria or viruses may cause cancer. As such, exposing your dog to raw food may prove dangerous for your dog. Furthermore, raw foods may have nutritional deficiencies or imbalances, which could result in cancer.

Homemade dog food

If you want to do the best for your dog, you may have considered using homemade dog food. In fact, it is much harder to balance dog food nutritionally than you might expect. Furthermore, the ingredients that you use in your homemade dog food in order to nutritionally-balance it, such as organ meat, may contain carcinogens without you knowing it. 

Humans generally don’t eat the parts of the body that dogs need in order to get sufficient nutrition in their homemade diet. As such, homemade dog food may not have the high quality that a dog needs. Certain organs are also more likely to accumulate heavy metals. It is difficult to predict the ways that an improperly balanced diet may lead to cancer or other serious problems.

Diets lacking in supplements

Fish oil supplements and mushroom extract or whole mushrooms are both potential cancer-fighting ingredients that seem to have no negative effects on your dog. Therefore, there is no reason (other than the cost) not to provide your dog with mushrooms and fish oil in order to prevent the growth of cancer. Keep your eye on research so that you can also get other beneficial supplements for your dog throughout their life. 

Low-fat diets

If your dog tends to gain weight easily, you may have chosen a low-fat diet to prevent them from gaining too much weight. Unfortunately, by eliminating fat you may also eliminate the healthy Omega-3 that can fight cancer cells. Furthermore, diets low in fat often make up for it in carbohydrates, which can encourage cancer growth

If you want your dog to lose weight, stick to a diet relatively low in carbohydrates. You want to choose a diet that has plenty of healthy fats and good protein. You can supplement your dog’s diet with healthy fruits and vegetables in order to keep them full.

Diet very high in carbohydrates

Tumors feed on carbohydrates in order to grow, so large levels of carbohydrates may be more likely to encourage tumor growth. On the other hand, cancer does not use fats as easily. Therefore, a diet higher in healthy fats and low in carbohydrates will be less likely to encourage cancer. In fact, high levels of omega 3 fatty acids from fish may have an inhibitory effect on cancer. 

Diets lacking in fruits and vegetables

The antioxidants in fruits and vegetables can help your dog’s body recover from the negative effects of radiation or chemotherapy by repairing oxidative damage. They are beneficial to dogs that are already suffering from cancer. The ability to repair your dog’s body from oxidative damage can also help to prevent cancer from growing and spreading in your dog. Avoid dog foods that don’t include fruits and vegetables; also, consider supplementing your dog’s regular diet with whole fruits and vegetables. 

Ethoxyquin (EQ)

Ethoxyquin, or EQ, is widely used in animal feed as protection against spoilage. This powerful antioxidant keeps oxidation and spoilage from occurring. While it has long been used in domestic animal feed, there have been concerns regarding its safety.

Some experimental studies found that other synthetic antioxidants like BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) and BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) promoted the activity of tumors. On the other hand, low concentrations seem to have anti-carcinogenic properties. 

EQ, specifically, has potentially been responsible for many health-related problems in dogs and people. Because it is used so regularly, and because of the concerns, the FDA nominated it for carcinogenicity testing. Following testing, the FDA requested the optional lowering of the maximum level in pet foods. EQ is mostly used in canned pet foods, so look carefully for it if you feed your dog canned food. 

Contamination or bad preparation

Fungal spoilage or various compounds produced during the preparation of food may result in mutagenic response and carcinogens. When 25 commercial pet foods were analyzed for mutagenic activity which may result in carcinogens, all but one had a positive response. These carcinogens seem related to the quality of meat used to make the food and the process, so choose high-quality, trusted manufacturers of pet food. 

Cooked meat

All of us know that meat is one of the healthiest things for our dogs to eat, right? Disturbing research finds that cooked meat may be a source of carcinogens for people and dogs. PhIP is a known carcinogen in rodents and is believed to contribute to cancers in humans as well. It is found in the hair of human omnivores but not in vegetarians.

A study found PhIP in 14 out of 16 healthy dogs that were consuming various brands of commercial pet food. The concentrations vary dramatically, but the findings do point to high exposure and bioavailability for this potential carcinogen in dogs. Try to avoid pet foods containing this synthetic antioxidant. Look for pet foods that advertise natural antioxidants, which are better for your dog and less likely to result in cancer. 

What to feed to prevent cancer

If you want to prevent cancer in your best friend, take their diet into account throughout their lives. Feeding your dog a fish-based diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids will give them a healthy, well-balanced diet that can also help to prevent cancer. 

Fish-based diets tend to be higher in fat and lower in carbohydrates as well, which is desirable for the prevention of cancer. Some clinical studies showed success in using mushrooms for the treatment and possible prevention of cancer. So, choose supplements that have fish oil as well as mushrooms. 

Avoid any food that may contain contaminants. Also, keep away from products that might have spoiled during the cooking process, such as very cheap food or foods produced in huge batches. 

Other ways to prevent cancer

You want to do the best to set your dog up for success and prevent cancer. There is more that you can do to prevent cancer than avoid potential carcinogens in your dog’s food.  

If your dog has thin hair and especially if they have white skin, consider using sunscreen on areas where the sun may burn the skin, like where the nose meets the muzzle and where the hair parts on the back. Dogs can develop skin cancer as a result of sun exposure just like we can.

Ongoing research is trying to develop a vaccine that may be able to prevent several types of cancer. The research will probably be ongoing for some time, but you may be able to enter your dog in the clinical study and potentially get the vaccine. 

When you have your dog spayed or neutered affects whether they develop cancer or not. Male golden retrievers neutered before 12 months of age are three times more likely to develop lymphoma. Another study found that osteosarcoma seems more prevalent in neutered dogs compared to intact dogs. Carcinoma of the bladder and prostate has also been more prevalent in neutered dogs. 

On the other hand, female dogs may have an increased risk of mammary or ovarian cancer when spayed later in life. In general, it seems that the best time to neuter or spay depends on gender and breed; this is certainly worth looking into when trying to make choices to prevent cancer in your dog. 

Signs of cancer in dogs

No matter how hard you try to prevent your dog from developing cancer, it may still happen. As dogs get older, the chance of cancer developing at some point grows higher. Watch your dog as they get older and check for any indications of cancer. Here are a few things to look for.

  • Lumps and bumps. It is normal for older dogs to get lumps and bumps all over the body, but if bumps persist or continue to get larger, you should have your veterinarian check them out.
  • Sores that refused to heal. Open wounds that don’t heal may be a sign of cancer in that area or an indication of infections resulting from a weakened immunity because of cancer.
  • Weight loss, lack of appetite, and lethargy. Cancer doesn’t feel good. If your dog seems to be failing to thrive, losing weight and refusing to eat, cancer might be the culprit.


Nobody wants their best friend to develop cancer. It can be disturbing to find out that what you are feeding your dog may contribute to their developing cancer, but this information should also be empowering.

You can make decisions to feed your dog foods that are less likely to cause cancer. By finding the right diet for your dog and making other good choices for their health, you can decrease their chances of developing cancer.

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Coral Dawn Drake

My fiance, Justin, and I live with our two little dogs, Sofie and Lisa, and three chickens in Gainesville, Florida. Justin and I are homebodies who occasionally enjoy a good adventure. I love living in Gainesville, and I love Florida. I can’t imagine anywhere more beautiful or strange than this hot, marshy place where people are guaranteed to be nothing other than themselves. Justin is always reminding me to relax. Relaxing doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m always busy. Making art or editing photos, digging in the yard or trying to grow some new moss or plant. There never seems to be enough time to do everything that I want to do. Life is so, so full and I want to plunge into every second of it.

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