Home » Pet Health » Pet Nutrition » Overview: Feeding Tips for Healthier Dogs


Most of us know that diet plays a role in disease prevention and that a poor diet paired with physical inactivity is associated with obesity. Several types of human cancer, including colorectal, pancreatic, and breast, have been linked to obesity and there is rising evidence to suggest the same association exists in dogs. However, the reports remain unclear. For example, some studies suggest a low-carbohydrate high-fat diet has protective effects in dogs, while other researchers report that a high-protein, high-carbohydrate, and low-fat diet may increase survival after a canine mammary cancer diagnosis.  But the jury is still out on how the specific diet components impact your dog’s cancer risk.

However, one area of research that does appear strong is that obesity increases the risk of cancer development. A 1998 study reported that female dogs with obesity by 1 year of age were more likely to develop mammary tumors than dogs who maintained a healthy weight. 

Additional studies are required to help us understand the link between diet and cancer risk in dogs. Fortunately, the first long-term study for cancer risk factors in dogs is currently underway. The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study began in 2015 and continues to follow over 3000 Golden Retrievers across the US. The purpose of this study is to collect information regarding nutrition, lifestyle, behavior, and genetics to understand better how these factors contribute to cancer risk.   

While more research is needed to understand the association between diet and cancer risk in dogs, prevention starts by meeting your pet’s nutritional requirements and ensuring they maintain a healthy weight. Your diligence regarding your dog’s diet and health is vital and checking your dog’s food for potentially harmful substances is key. Unfortunately, researchers have found cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens), such as commonly used preservatives like ethoxyquin, acrylamide, and the fungus aflatoxin, in various dry and canned dog foods. To try and limit the level of carcinogens in your dog’s diet, you might consider preparing homemade dog food or feeding your dog a higher-end, organic dry food equivalent that does not have carcinogenic preservatives. Reading the labels and discussing food options with your vet will help ensure your dog gets the proper nutrients.

Providing your dog with nutrient-dense food while monitoring their weight also ensures their immune system is working in prime condition. The immune system is designed to eliminate unwanted or unexpected carcinogens in everyday life. A diet filled with cancer-fighting foods can help your dog’s immune system get rid of the carcinogens more effectively.

The Pet Cancer Foundation’s Website Editorial team is comprised of veterinarians, veterinary oncologists, and veterinary technicians, as well as scientific writers and editors who have attained their PhD’s in the life sciences, along with general editors and research assistants. All content found in this section goes through an extensive process with multiple review stages, to ensure this extended resource provides pet families with the most up-to-date information publicly available.

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Last Updated: October 1, 2022

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The following sources were referenced to write the content on this page:

Alenza DP, Rutteman GR, Peña L, Beynen AC & Cuesta P 1998, ‘Relation between habitual diet and canine mammary tumors in a case‐control study’, J Vet Intern Med, vol. 12, no. 3, pp.132-139.

Guy, MK, Page, RL, Jensen, WA, Olson, PN, Haworth, J.D, Searfoss, EE & Brown, DE 2015, ‘The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study: establishing an observational cohort study with translational relevance for human health’, Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, vol. 370, no. 1673, pp. 20140230-2014240.

Pal, D, Banerjee, S & Ghosh, AK 2012, ‘Dietary-induced cancer prevention: an expanding research arena of emerging diet related to healthcare system’, J Adv Pharm Technol Res, vol. 3, no. 1, pp.16-24.

Poirier, LA, 2002, ‘The effects of diet, genetics and chemicals on toxicity and aberrant DNA methylation: an introduction’, J Nutr, vol. 132, no. 8 Suppl, pp. 2336S–2339S.

The Pet Cancer Foundation’s medical resource for pet owners is protected by copyright.

For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.