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Are there any good home-made diets for cancer patients?

I have used a variety of home-prepared and commercial diets for my cancer patients. Based on Ogilvie’s work using low carbohydrate, moderate fat and moderate protein diets for lymphoma patients, we have used homemade diets that reduce carbohydrates while providing quality protein, presumably appropriate fat and fatty acid profiles, and high levels of nutrient rich vegetables.

Photo by Michael on Unsplash

Rule number one is to KEEP THEM EATING, so we don’t stand on principle if our patients dislike our cooking. On the other hand, the majority of canine and feline patients appear to improve in general condition after becoming acclimated to the diet below, and we assume that their general improvement bodes well for the course of their disease, at least to optimize survival times.

Guidelines for cooking for canine cancer patients:

 50% fish or poultry (organic preferred but not necessary)

 50% mixed frozen or fresh vegetables

 Flax or olive oil as a source of fat calories – about 1 teaspoon per 10kg of body weight

A HUMAN daily vitamin-mineral supplement (one dose for animals over 10kg, ½ dose for animals under10 kg)  Alternatively consider Vetlicious

A calcium carbonate source – about 250 mg per 7.5kg of body weight ( many simple acid reflux treatments are plain Calcium Carbonate)

Many people use a crock-pot to stew all ingredients together. Some prefer to steam the vegetables, add the cooked meat, and throw everything into a food mill so that it looks like commercial canned food. Raw meat is never recommended for animals undergoing chemotherapy or who are immune suppressed in any wayThis recipe is NOT balanced – the patient and the recipe should be re-evaluated frequently in order to adjust the recipe according to the animal’s weight, disease progression, and other changes in condition.

Fish oil

Fish Oil (salmon or menhaden body oil) appears to have antiproliferative activity in some tumor cell lines, antimetastatic activity in laboratory animals, and anti-cachectic activity in human patients.11,12 The benefits for patients with cancer are linked with the ability to attenuate systemic inflammation.13 It is frequently recommended for canine and feline cancer patients at a rate of 1 extra strength capsule (500-600 mg of DHA and EPA) per 5-10kg of body weight.  Preliminary findings suggest fish oil supplementation increases chemotherapy efficacy, improves survival, and helps to maintain weight and muscle mass in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).7,8 An EPA-enriched oral supplement improved tolerability of chemotherapy in patients with advanced colorectal cancer and when combined with chemotherapy, fish oil supplementation may delay tumor progression in patients with colorectal cancer.9 Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to have anticoagulant effects, however, results from clinical studies are mixed.

Kalinga Park has a Omega supplement available.


Turmeric has been shown to be anti- angiogenic, induces apoptosis and is anti-inflammatory. The dose
for dogs is one teaspoon per 25kg daily. The dose for cats when they will accept it is 1⁄4 teaspoon twice
daily. It is has been shown to be of more benefit when combined with black pepper and oil (golden
paste). (Credit Steve Denley – Balanced Veterinary Care)

1 cup water, ½ cup organic turmeric powder, ¼ cup coconut oil or bone broth, ½ tablespoon organic ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon Ceylon cinnamon. Simmer turmeric and water over low heat, stirring for 7 to 8 minutes until it forms a paste. Remove from heat and add oil or bone broth, pepper, and cinnamon. Feed 1 teaspoon/20 lb twice daily.

Green Tea

The green tea polyphenol, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), has been shown to have anti-angiogenic and antiproliferative properties in addition to preventing cancers. One recent in vitro study even suggested that EGCG reversed p-glycoprotein mediated multiple drug resistance.16 In human clinical trials, 200mg daily of EGCG led to benefits, while up to 800mg daily was tolerated. I would suggest scaling the dose down by weight, and using the extract instead of dried green tea leaves, as the dose of the dried herb may affect patient appetite if provided in food.  So aim for the low end using a powder.

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a plant originally native to Southern Europe to Asia, but now found throughout the world. Silymarin, which is derived from the seed, pod, or fruit of the milk thistle plant, is primarily used to manage liver disease, but additional studies suggest antioxidant and anticancer effects. Found in veterinary products such as Denamarin and Denosyl (Nutramax Laboratorites), this synthetic formulation has been shown to delay to onset of chemotherapy-induced hepatotoxicity in patients receiving lomustine chemotherapy.3

Silibinin, one of the flavonoids, demonstrated antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting release of hydrogen peroxide and production of tumor necrosis factor alpha.4 Other studies indicate the flavonoids in milk thistle exert anticancer effects by arresting G1 and S phases of the cell cycle.5 Generally well tolerated and considered safe in combination with most medications, there are limited concerns for combination with chemo-radiation therapy.  We have a product called Denosyl that would help here.



The flowers, leaves and stems of the Cannabis sativa plant have been used in herbal remedies for centuries as well as in more modern culture recreationally and therapeutically. Scientists have identified many biologically active components in cannabis, with the two best-studied components being delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (often referred to as THC), and cannabidiol (CBD). Other cannabinoids are being studied for their medicinal and therapeutic effects.

At this time, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists cannabis and its cannabinoids as Schedule I controlled substances. This means that they cannot legally be prescribed, possessed, or sold under federal law. The use of cannabis to treat some medical conditions is legal under state laws in many states for licensed physicians, however, veterinarians are not included in these regulations. Dronabinol, a pharmaceutical form of THC, and a man-made cannabinoid drugs are approved by the FDA to treat cancer treatment-related conditions.

Studies conducted in the 1970s found that dogs have the highest number of THC receptors in their brains, more than any other animal studied, including humans. For this reason, dogs are very sensitive to cannabis products that contain THC, and pet guardians need to be very careful about giving THC to their dogs, so as to not create this adverse neurologic reaction. Very low THC cannabis, also known as “hemp” does not contain enough THC to create these adverse reactions. They are a better bet for pets, due to their increased safety. Some experts believe that THC is important to give along with CBD to address certain difficult to treat conditions such as cancer. With further research we will learn more about whether this is true. Hemp-based CBD extracts have been anecdotally reported to help dogs with epilepsy. For treating cancer, it is still unknown whether CBDs can work effectively as a single therapy without THC or other anti-cancer drugs. At this time, there are no published reports utilizing cannabis for pets with cancer.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol D3) has been examined for its benefits as a preventive agent and as a treatment for many types of cancer. In animal models, dietary vitamin D3 demonstrates chemopreventive effects against breast cancer equivalent to those elicited by calcitriol without causing hypercalcemia.19 The anticancer effect of vitamin D is thought to be due to induction of cell differentiation and antiproliferation. A positive feedback signaling loop between the serine-protein kinase ATM (ataxia telangiectasia mutated) and the VDR was identified as critical for cancer chemoprevention by vitamin D.

In a 2016 veterinary study, low serum vitamin D3 levels were shown to be associated with an increased risk of developing cancer in canine patients.20 The optimal serum vitamin D3 level was determined to be 100–120 ng/mL based on iPTH and c-CRP variations plateauing at this level. In the author’s practice, serum vitamin D3 levels are routinely monitored and supplementation with oral vitamin D3 initiated with a target range of 100–120 ng/mL, although higher serum concentrations have been maintained in individual patients with no accompanying hypercalcemia to date. A current clinical trial is underway investigating oral Vitamin D supplementation as part of a muti-herb treatment regimen for dogs with hemangiosarcoma.


Melatonin can kill directly many different types of human tumour cells. It is a naturally produced cytotoxin, which can induce tumour cell death.  Reports of therapeutic doses have been variable.  Pets recently diagnosed with slow-growing or early-stage cancer may wish to consider supplementing  with 2mg melatonin nightly. Late stage patients may benefit with higher doses. Dose for large dogs is 10mg twice daily but could go up to 1mg/kg twice daily. High dose melatonin is contraindicated in diabetes patients. Studies have been
quite promising for mammary cancer. Credit Steve Denley – Balanced Vet Care

I recommend NOW brand melatonin from (

Canine Energy Requirements

WT (kg) RER (kcal) MER(kcal)
2.27 129 207
4.54 218 348
6.80 295 472
9.07 366 585
11.34 433 692
13.61 496 794
18.14 615 985
22.68 727 1,164
27.22 834 1,335
31.75 936 1,498
36.29 1,035 1,656
40.82 1,131 1,809
45.36 1,223 1,958
49.90 1,314 2,103
54.43 1,403 2,244
58.97 1,490 2,383
63.50 1,575 2,520
68.04 1,658 2,653
72.58 1,741 2,785
77.11 1,822 2,914
81.65 1,901 3,042

Protein kcalorie Contents (Source FDA)

Protein Source kcal / 100gm
Salmon 127
Chicken Raw 111
Fish Flake(Shark) 130
Fish Mullet 117
Fish Cod 82

Author Ben Charlton

Ben Charlton is one of the partners of Kalinga Park Veterinary Surgery and has been the principal Veterinarian at Kalinga Park since the surgery opened in 2008.

More posts by Ben Charlton

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