Evidence Update-Most Homemade Cancer Diets for Dogs are Inadequate

I have often discussed the problems with homemade pet diets, which are frequently recommended in books and websites that complain about commercial food or proclaim some magic method for preventing or curing disease. Raw diets, grain free diets, and other fads often involve making pet food at home from recipes from self-proclaimed experts in nutrition, though there are also commercial versions of each fad available not long after it takes hold. Of course, the only real experts in pet nutrition are those board certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition. And while there is ample evidence that homemade diets are often nutritionally inadequate, (e.g. 1, 2) most of the scary claims about commercial diets are just myths and misconceptions.

A recent study has reinforced these already well-established points.

Heinze CR, Gomez FC, Freeman LM. Assessment of commercial diets and recipes for home-prepared diets recommended for dogs with cancer. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2012 Dec 1;241(11):1453-60. doi: 10.2460/javma.241.11.1453.

This study looked at recipes from books and web sites that recommended diets for dogs with cancer, as well as commercial diets marketed for use in canine cancer patients, and evaluated the nutritional adequacy of the diets based on established AAFCO or NRC guidelines. The findings were quite clear, and the recommendations consistent with those veterinary nutritionists have been making for some time.

Published recipes of home-prepared diets for pets with various health conditions are rarely nutritionally adequate. None of the 27 recipes identified and evaluated met NRC RA or AAFCO nutrient profiles for all essential nutrients. In some cases, the recipes contained excessive, potentially toxic amounts of nutrients.

Recipes formulated or provided by veterinarians were not more nutritionally sound than were recipes formulated or provided by nonveterinarians.

Only 2 of 39 (5.1%) commercial diets had passed AAFCO feeding trials (one for adult maintenance and the other for all life stages). The majority (35/39 [89.7%]) of the diets were formulated to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages (27 diets) or adult maintenance (8 diets

There is a paucity of experimental data that support specific nutrient profiles or ingredients for dogs with cancer. Dogs with cancer do not have higher or lower requirements for protein, fat, calories, or any other specific nutrients, compared with requirements for healthy dogs. Therefore, it is of concern that none of the recipes for home-prepared diets met NRC RA or AAFCO nutrient profiles for adult maintenance in dogs… All of these inadequate diets have the potential to cause nutritional disease at a time when nutrition should be optimized to provide maximum metabolic support and immune system function and to help decrease adverse effects attributable to cancer treatments.

Commercial diets and recipes of home-prepared diets reflected the current popularity of grain-free diets. No data support health benefits of non-grain sources of carbohydrate over carbohydrates provided by grains; however, many manufacturers still tout the nutritional superiority of grain-free products.

Grain-free diets are often marketed as lower in carbohydrate content, but this is not a consistent finding. Approximately one-third of the recipes of grain-free home-prepared diets and commercial diets did not meet the defined criteria for low-carbohydrate diets.

Low-carbohydrate diets are commonly recommended for dogs with cancer on the basis that many cancer cells use aerobic glycolysis and fermentation of pyruvate to lactate as a main source of energy… it is theorized that feeding a low-carbohydrate diet could effectively starve cancer cells through a decrease in the supply of glucose. However, despite the fact that this theory has been in existence for nearly a century, minimal data have been published to support the tangible benefits of low-carbohydrate diets for any species of animal with cancer. To our knowledge, there are no published data to support the contention that low-carbohydrate diets are of clinical benefit with regard to tumor growth, disease-free interval, or survival time in dogs, and further studies are required before appropriate recommendations can be made.

The number of recommendations for feeding raw meat diets to cancer patients is a concern because contamination with pathological bacteria has been reported for raw meat for human consumption and for commercial raw diets. Cancer patients, even those not receiving chemotherapy, likely have some degree of altered immunoregulation, and many dogs receiving chemotherapy are clinically immunosuppressed, which dramatically increases the risk of illness or even death from contaminated food sources. In humans, the risk of illness attributable to foodborne bacteria in cancer patients is such a concern that patients receiving chemotherapy are commonly advised to eat raw fruits and vegetables only when at home.

It is possible that feeding a diet that does not meet AAFCO recommendations or NRC RAs for various nutrients may not cause overt clinical disease. Although some nutrient deficiencies (eg, thiamine or taurine) can be evident in adult animals after a food deficient in those nutrients is fed for weeks to months, it can be months to years before clinical signs are evident for other nutrient deficiencies (eg, calcium in an adult animal). The status of many nutrients is not easily determined, and the first clinical signs of deficiency may be catastrophic (calcium deficiency resulting in osteopenia and pathological fractures or taurine deficiency resulting in dilated cardiomyopathy).

Currently, the authors are aware of no evidence to suggest that cancer patients have nutrient needs that differ dramatically from maintenance requirements. Many dog owners change to home-prepared diets because of an overall perception that they are healthier than commercial diets, rather than because they provide specific nutrient profiles. Thus, it appears appropriate that home-prepared diets be formulated to meet nutrient guidelines similar to those of commercial products.

Bottom Line

Homemade diet recipes are almost always nutritionally inadequate, even if formulated by a veterinarian (unless they are a board-certified nutritionist)

There is no evidence for benefits from current nutritional fads such as raw or grain-free diets, but there is the potential for harm from these diets.

Commercial diets are consistently more appropriate nutritionally than homemade diets.

There is little evidence to support the idea that cancer patients should be fed a different diet from healthy dogs (with the possible exception of extra fatty acid supplementation).

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52 Responses to Evidence Update-Most Homemade Cancer Diets for Dogs are Inadequate

  1. Kate says:

    Great reading. I discovered your blog website today and have spent most of the rest of the day reading through your entries. I used to breed and show Golden Retrievers and have been appalled by the ignorance, myths and misconceptions practised by many of “the fancy”. Thank you for your straight up evidence based advice and opinions.

  2. skeptvet says:

    Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you find the site useful!

  3. diand says:

    I was very excited to find your site. My dog was diagnoised with Lymphoma in January,I was told he should be put on a high protrein, high fat, low carb diet by his oncologist.
    I am nervous about changing his diet. He has been on proplan lamb and rice for for 8 years now and is doing great. He has had 9 chemo treatments and has been in remission since his 2nd treatment . Do you think i should change his diet he seems to be doing great on this . He weights 57 #how much fatty acids would you reccomend and any certain brand or additional supplement. I also have added missing link to his diet. Any thoughts or suggestion would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

  4. skeptvet says:

    There is some quite limited evidence that reducing the carbohydrate content of the diet might have some effect on the activity and growth of cancer cells, and that essential fatty acid supplementation (predominantly as fish oil) may have some benefits. However, most of the rationale for this is theoretical or based on in vitro and lab animal research. There is not much in the way of clinical trials evaluating various dietary theories for treatment of cancer in dogs, and there is no consensus among oncologists that such diets are beneficial. Some studies have shown a commercial diet, N/D, had some effect on remission rates (but not overall survival) in dogs with lymphoma. However, apart from the risk of bias associated with being funded by the diet manufacturer, this diet can cause a lot of GI tract upset. That’s the sort of limited evidence we have to go on.

    Almost everyone agrees, however, that the most important aspect of nutrition for cancer patients is providing a balanced, good quality diet the pet will actually eat readily. So while there could be some benefit to changing diets, that is not by any means proven yet. And I wouldn’t do anything that reduces your dog’s interest in his food or willingness to eat or causes any significant GI discomfort. So while a diet change is reasonable, it isn’t clear what if any benefit it will provide, and I would not push anything that your dog seems reluctant to take or that causes on obvious side effects.

    Good luck!

  5. Ellen Adams says:

    i am reading everything i can find. our 12 yr old male shih tzu was diagnosed with plasmacytoma last week. he had a horrific gastric episode following the tests. i have him on greenwise chicken and brown organic rice with small amt of green beans and carrrots which has at least gotten him back on track. he eats well about every 4 hours. i am so confused about all the cancer diets and am not sure what to do next.

  6. skeptvet says:

    The confusion comes from the fact that there are many claims and almost no evidence to back them up. The reality is there is no “cancer diet” in the sense that the right combination of nutrients will significantly alter the prognosis for most dogs with cancer. The “right” diet is one that is nutritionally complete and that the dog will eat and be able to maintain a healthy body condition.

    There is some very limited evidence that specific adjustments, such as changing the protein and carbohydrate ratio or adding additional essential fatty acids, might have some effect, and under the guidance of a veterinary nutritionist it might be reasonable to try some of those things, so long as they don’t interfere with your dog eating as well as possible and taking in adequate calories. The “perfect” food is harmful if it makes your pet stop eating. However, despite the fact that we all wish we could take control of the outcome and make a major difference in our pet’s health when they are afflicted by something as serious and frightening as cancer by selecting the right food, the reality is that there isn’t good evidence this is true. Most “cancer diets” are more a treatment for our painful sense of helplessness than for our pets.

    My advice would be to seek out the advice of a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and to be cautious about expectations or claims of dramatic results from nutritional manipulations.

    Good luck!

  7. Nancy Simpson says:

    Thanks so much for straight forward scientific insight! My Sophie was diagnosed with lymphoma 5 weeks ago. Have done 2 rounds of iv chemo and one oral and she is in remission. Diet and appetite have been a concern for me. She does well on Hill i/d, but has intestinal upsets on the n/d. Good to feel it is ok to leave her on what agrees with her.

  8. Lori Rios says:

    Hi, Thank you for taking the time to write this. Your website is the first I have come across that doesnt advocate changing the diet. My dog is 11 yrs old and has been diagnosed with cancer but not sure what type yet, they found a mass on her lung and say the cancer originated somewhere else in her body. I have been doing research on it, and looking at her diet. She has been on dry and wet Venison and Potato food since she was 2 yrs, so it would be a major change for her. I dont think we will be doing Chemo because of her age, but if anything in her diet is worth changing, I am willing to work it in. Do you recommend adding real meat to her diet and decreasing the amount of dry food I give her?

    Thanks!!!

    Lori

  9. skeptvet says:

    Lori,

    There’s very little real research information about diet and cancer. There are some suggestive studies about the effects of fatty acids (e.g. fish oils) and about changing the ration of protein to carbohydrates, but it’s mostly guesswork. I would recommend consulting a board-certified veterinary nutritionist since they are likely to be best informed about the latest research (more so, often, than the oncologists). You can check with hyour closet veterinary school, or try one of these:

    petdiets.com
    balanceit.com

    Good luck!

  10. Mary says:

    My dog was recently diagnosed with a cancer that had returned after 3 years. This time it is inoperable. I am willing to try what could prolong her life as long as quality of life is factored into account. She thus is on a fairly new anti-cancer pill just for dogs. There has been some research, but more could be done. Her cancer type is rare and so there is no solid evidence that it will work on hers.
    I knew something was wrong when her eating slacked off. Her oncologist said to feed her whatever she would eat. In the past boiled hamburger and rice worked well if she had stopped eating for whatever reason. As I’ve learned to eat healthier with more complex carbohydrates I now used brown rice. I have consulted a licensed nutritionist who has had me add food suppliments and some vitamins. I’ve also begun to add finely diced cooked vegetables one at a time to make sure she will eat what is offered.
    In doing my own reading on research I have learned that 1 in 4 dogs are likely to develop cancer. Why is that? I used to assume that dog food companies had it all figured out about healthy nutrition. Now I’m not so sure. I do now look at all of the ingredients in dog food and am amazed at all of the simple carbohydrates and additives. I do not want my other dog to get cancer as this one has and as my very first dog had. As I work on eating better and more balanced, my dogs will too. For me that means eating more complex carbohydrates and eating more vegetables and fruits and a balanced amount of protein. My dogs will eat healthier products as well.

  11. skeptvet says:

    The trick to “eating healthier” is having good scientific information about what that means. While there is much we don’t know about canine nutrition, the best research we do have has led to the composition of comemrcial pet foods today. There may very well be better alternatives, but the ones usually rpomoted (home-cooked diets, raw diest, grain-free diets, etc.) are not based on any real science at all, just speculation. While I wouldn’t argue current diets are perfect, I don’t think it would be in our pets’ best interests to change our feeding practices without something better than speculation to support doing so.

    As for cancer rates, there is no good epidemiological data on the incidence of cancer over time to tell us if we are seeing more or less of it now that ever before. My own suspicion is that we see more cancer because our dogs live longer and manage to avoid dying of the things that used to get them first, like infectious diseas,e trauma, and malnutrition. In any case, before we decide that cancers in dogs are cause by nutritional factors, we need to have some real evidence to support this. It’s possible, but so far again just speculation.

  12. v.t. says:

    Mary, I’m very sorry to hear.

    What is the anti-cancer pill, did your vet prescribe it and what is it’s intended purpose?

    Was the nutritionist your own or a veterinary nutritionist?

    I agree with your vet’s comments on her food. Feeding anything she will eat is better than her suffering inappetence – unfortunately with progressive cancer, we have to accept that we don’t always have control (not easy), so we do the best we can to alleviate any pain and keep our pets as comfortable as possible. I personally do not think that changing her diet in any radical way would produce much benefit, unless it is properly formulated and that she is in fact accepting it and eating it readily.

    IMO, pet nutrition is an evolving process (albeit slower than we’d prefer), much the same as we learn new things about human nutrition. It’s not perfect by any means, but reverting to the methods of the past, or assuming the latest nutritional fads for humans should be the same for our pets, is not always what’s best for our pets. The human dietary guidelines change all the time, we might learn something useful one day and the next we hear it has been proven otherwise.

    I also do not believe that manufactured pet food is the cause of increased cancer rates although who knows in the future if we discover certain ingredients we could certainly improve on. We also have to take into account various environmental factors too numerous to mention!

  13. Mary says:

    The drug is palladia and is fairly new. It is used to shrink tumors. And the nutritionist is a veteranarian nutritionist.
    Right now my dog is doing well. She is still eating hamburger and rice along with some food suppliments and vegetables. I’ ve also started to add some regular dog food that has more complex carbohydrates and no real sugar or strange additives that simply extend shelf life.
    I too am a skeptic… I do think pet food companies care about our dogs, but they also are highly motivated by profit.
    For quite a while pet foods were one size fits all. Now we have dog foods for just puppies, senior dog food, cat food for hairballl prevention, etc.. Why is it do hard to believe that there is food information that vet oncologists and vet nutritionists have that we can use now in the battle against cancer in dogs. They are on the cutting edge of this battle with the most up-to-date information on new scientific studies. Pet food companies take a look at these but can not respond as quickly to the new data. They have to be conservative before changing their formulas. They would have to spend years documenting and also checking out markets before putting out a cancer food for pets.
    I am placing my bets and hopes for my dog on the people who have the training and newest onformation available to them in dealing specifically with cancer. I do know that much more research needs to be done to be sure of anything. I know too that the drug palladia has not been proven to affect the particular cancer that my dog has. Only 5 other dogs in the country have had the same cancer do in a way she is contributing to gathering new information about the drug. The effect will be monitered with ultra-sound to see if it is indeed doing her any good. I’m most concerned with her quality of life and if the drugstarts to interfer with that we will be done woth that treatment.

  14. v.t. says:

    Well, nothing you’ve stated you are changing or adding to her diet would seem harmful, as long as it’s balanced, not oversupplemented (because we still do not really know whether supplements benefit the way they are promoted – many are not), and as long as she has a decent appetite to maintain her nutrition. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to choose healthy food sources and ingredients, just make sure it’s a healthy/properly formulated balance.

    I can’t answer for the experts in veterinary nutrition, nor the onco specialists. I’m guessing oncologists’ primary focus is on treating the cancer with nutrition coming in a close second. I’m also guessing some oncologists refer their clients to board certified nutritionists should the patient require a modified diet or should the client request.

    As for manufacturers, you are correct, as with all business, they are motivated for profit and we can’t totally fault them for it. That said, some do make concerted efforts in development with improving source ingredients, field studies to determine effects and results, disease research and nutrition. Those are the things that eventually benefit our pets in the absence of anything else. I understand the frustration, but short of each of us developing our own home-made concoction with potential disastrous or ineffective results, I don’t know what else there is to rely on.

    Not having experience with Palladia, I offer my best wishes that your dog has improvement on it, I understand you have limited choices in treatment, that is often the most difficult thing to accept of all.

  15. M says:

    Scientific data proves otherwise. Also…much medical research as well as use with astounding results from sacred frankincense with cancer. And Sons it is mathematically logical that n it is mathematically logical that not only humans but other animals most stop use of, and or reduce and that which changes to and that which changes to sugar in the system. You give a lot of opinions, Do not a healthful change of diet. the sugars and the sugars and carbs must be must be removed from the diet. It is common sense as well as scientifically and medically proven that different diets for different nutritional needs a required with different illnesses. Commercial food is mass produced as well as over-processed and many ingredients that go into commercial food are disgusting and have no place in our pets food. People…do your own research and use common sense. Freshly prepared as well as minimally cooked/processed and nutritionally sound with natural vitamins, minerals and other other Is best no matter what type of creature you are.

  16. v.t. says:

    Oh dear, here we go again.

  17. Sluggo says:

    I’m not going to debate what’s right or wrong.. but my dog was diagnosed with a very aggressive sarcoma last March and was given 2 months, his pathology report was very grim. I did lot’s of reading and research and got him off that processed kibble, made him home-cooked meals of Boiled Meats (also added some organ meat), steamed broccoli slaw and carrots, Baked butternut squash or pumpkin (no grains) a few times a week, water packed/no salt sardines, organic eggs, Powered egg shells for calcium, Rotated healthy fats (Herring oil, COD, Coconut); supplements (COQ10, Turmeric, Phyto Greens, Medicinal Mushrooms, Modified Citrus Pectin, Spirulina, Parsley, Diatomaceous Earth (food grade), Liver/Dandelion detox tincture….
    My dog is still thriving — still has cancer, and I realize it’s not a cure, but it’s giving him more time and his quality is still very good. So, you could never sell to me that Kibble is quality food — IF..IF you have to feed Kibble — better to add some REAL food grade meats and quality supplements.

  18. skeptvet says:

    There’s nothing to debate. An anecdote is just a story, and all it shows is what you believe, not whether what you believe is true or not. If it was that simple, we wouldn’t need science. But if we stuck with anecdotes instead of science, we’d stille be relying on bloodletting and leeches and ritual sacrifice to treat disease. It’s understandable that you feel the way you do, and I’m happy your pet is doing well, but it proves nothing.

  19. Mary Wellesley says:

    My dog has lymposarcoma andhad her spleen removed which had an 8 pound tumor. She gets Leukeran and prednisone as we decided not to go for full blown chemotherapy. She eats steat. turkey, chopped meat, chicken, very little carbohydrates as she is very fussy with vegetables, we are now also giving her wild salmon for fish oils twice a week. We are inundated with what and what not to do by looking on the internet and I am truly afraid I am not doing the right thing with her diet. She will not eat n/d She now has elevated liver values and is going in for a sonogram. Please tell me specifically if you can who I can contact for her correct diet, etc. Life without Katie is no life at all.

  20. skeptvet says:

    I would recommend you consult a board-certified veterinary nutritionist. You can try the nearest veterinary college, or one of these web site:

    petdiets.com
    balanceit.com

    Good luck!

  21. Sharon says:

    ” Of course, the only real experts in pet nutrition are those board certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition. ”
    REALLY? Because you say so? Don’t tell me…they love Hills, Royal Canine, and Science Diet, right?

  22. skeptvet says:

    What does “expert” mean? It means someone with specialized training and skills recognized as relevant to a particular area. IN medicine, that emans people with board certification recognized by the appropriate regulatory authority, and in this case that is the American Board of Veterinary Specialties. People can’t just call themselves a “surgeon” and do surgery, because self-declared expertise is meaningless, and yet this is exactly what people do for nutirition all the time. The fact that you don’t agree with their advice doesn’t mean these folks aren’t experts and you are.

  23. v.t. says:

    I’d personally value the opinion of a board certified nutritionist far over that of some internet wannabe who doles out advice as if it’s always a one-size fits all approach and of course, can’t do much better than bash pet food manufactures based on extreme fear mongering.

  24. Charlie says:

    And for every “expert” that has “scientific” proof that ACTION A is best, there will always be another “expert” that has “scientific” proof that ACTION B is best. Look closely at who pays which “expert” for the proof and you’ll have the answer as to why which ACTION is best. It’s all about the bottom line, folks. The medical establishment makes boatloads of money by keeping everyone confused. “Studies show you need to have a mammogram every year!” “No, new studies show you don’t need to have a mammogram every year!” Now that the pet industry is a multi-billion dollar a year industry, unfortunately it appears the vets and “pet-care” companies are using our pets in the same way the human medical establishment has done…cause confusion and watch the big bucks roll in!

  25. skeptvet says:

    Ridiculous and offensive. You are so clearly biased you characterize the improvement in our knowledge that leads to changes in standards of care as evidence of a conspiracy to confuse people?! And you completely ignore the fact that we are the healthiest, longest lived generation in human history, thanks to science and science-based medicine. You are welcome to live an “all-natural” medieval existence free from the nutrition, sanitation, and healthcare generated by the evil and corrupt scientific and healthcare establishment, so long as you do it somewhere where you can’t spread your inevitable diseases to others, but the ignorance of this conspiracy mongering is appalling and sad.

  26. Charlie says:

    Wow! Must have hit a nerve. Interesting how so-called “scientists” love to use the same type of emotionally-charged language that they accuse” conspiracy theorists” of using. I never stated we should live a “medieval existence.” Anyone naive enough to truly believe that most corporations, including medical and pharmaceutical companies, are not looking at the bottom line first and foremost is kidding themselves. THAT is true ignorance, and TRULY sad!

  27. finaus says:

    You have mentioned that there is no evidence that grain free diets are better for pets. What would you make of this study?

    Dietary gluten alters the balance of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines in T cells of BALB/c mice.
    Immunology. January 2013;138(1):23-33.
    Julie C Antvorskov1; Petra Fundova; Karsten Buschard; David P Funda
    1The Bartholin Institute, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark. julie.antvorskov@gmail.com
    © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

    Article Abstract

    Several studies have documented that dietary modifications influence the development of type 1 diabetes. However, little is known about the interplay of dietary components and the penetration of diabetes incidence. In this study we tested if wheat gluten is able to induce differences in the cytokine pattern of Foxp3(+) regulatory T cells, as well as Foxp3(-) T cells, isolated from intestinal mucosal lymphoid tissue and non-mucosal lymphoid compartments in BALB/c mice. The gluten-containing standard diet markedly changed the cytokine expression within Foxp3(-) T cells, in all lymphoid organs tested, towards a higher expression of pro-inflammatory interferon-? (IFN-?), interleukin-17 (IL-17) and IL-2. In Foxp3(+) regulatory T cells, gluten ingestion resulted in a mucosal increase in IL-17 and IL-2 and an overall increase in IFN-? and IL-4. The gluten-free diet induced an anti-inflammatory cytokine profile with higher proportion of transforming growth factor-? (TGF-?)(+) Foxp3(-) T cells in all tested lymphoid tissues and higher IL-10 expression within non-T cells in spleen, and a tendency towards a mucosal increase in TGF-?(+) Foxp3(+) regulatory T cells. Our data shows that the gluten-containing standard diet modifies the cytokine pattern of both Foxp3(-) T cells and Foxp3(+) regulatory T cells towards a more inflammatory cytokine profile. This immune profile may contribute to the higher type 1 diabetes incidence associated with gluten intake.

    I will admit this is regarding a specific condition in a different species. But I would consider this evidence that a diet containing gluten can have potentially deleterious health on pets.

  28. skeptvet says:

    “‘So-called’ scientists? What does that mean? Anyone who disagrees with you, or calls out your ideas for the nonsense they are gets scare quotes around their status as a “scientist?” You say the “medical establishment” deliberately keeps people confused and obfuscates about health information, yet you think you’re not a believer in a conspiracy theory? You think pharmaceutical companies are purely profit riven, but presumably the folks who make herbal, homeopathic, or other “natural” therapies are acting solely out of the goodness of their hearts? Feeding the toll is always a waste of time, I know, but I do find your inability to see how bizarre your own beliefs are quite stunning. Fortunately, it is obvious to the rest of us.

  29. Charlie says:

    In the 5th century, “science” was absolutely sure the Earth was the center of the universe. In the 15th century, “science” was absolutely sure the Earth was flat. And now in the 21st century, “science” is absolutely sure traditional medicine is the ONLY way to heal humans and animals. TRUE science is skeptical AND open-minded; it is never SURE of anything, and that is why we continue to evolve and improve. Greed, however, is always the same…use whatever means possible to confuse and control the people, and you’ll easily get their money. Gee, “skept”…it seems YOU are so clearly biased against having an open mind. In my experience as a counselor, I’ve found that one who tries to bully others into thinking he is so smart and has the ONE TRUE ANSWER usually has issues trying to live up to his father’s expectations. My advice to that person…let it go. When he does, he realizes that there will ALWAYS be someone smarter than him; life stops being a competition to always be the smartest, and he sleeps much more restfully.

  30. skeptvet says:

    A rodent diet without gluten fed to mice with the monitoring of surrogate markers of cytokines in t-lymphocytes doesn’t say anything about the health consequences of diets with or without grain for companion animals. It is a study that elucidates a tiny piece of the physiological response to one very specific compound in one species, but generalizing from that to real-world health problems in other species on whole diets is not possible. This kind of extrapolation from basic science is quite dangerous because real animals and real diets are far more complex, and surrogate markers are highly unreliable predictors. Most new medical therapies developed with in vitro and lab animal studies and reasoning from basic physiology fail when tried in real patients, which ahs taught us not to over-interpret the meaning of such studies. The current issue of anti-oxidants in humans is a great example. Lots of studies show compounds like Vitamin E and resveratrol effect inflammatory markers in lab animals. But growing clinical trial evidence is failing to find real health benefits, and in some cases actually harm has come from these kinds of compounds because the oxidative and inflammatory processes we are trying to suppress have beneficial as well as harmful effects. The world is too complex for simple, direct extrapolation from such model studies to clinical use to work most of the time.

    A clinical trial feeding nutritionally appropriate diets differing only in inclusion or exclusion of grains to enough randomized dogs or cats over long enough and with appropriate measurement of objective, meaningful health outcomes would support claims about grain free diets. Such a study could be done, and the companies profiting from marketing grain free diets have the resources to do it, but they likely won’t because the current fad about grains allows them to increase sales by providing such diets without bothering to generate scientific evidence to show they have any health benefits.

  31. skeptvet says:

    The geocentric model was replaced by scientific discovery, and supported by religious institutions and the idea that the way things appear must be how they are, which is exactly the position argued for by those who validate therapies purely by anecdote and dismiss scientific evaluation. Science is not absolutely sure of anything, of course, since all knowledge in science is provisional and probabilistic. I haven’t presented any “one true answers,” and I certainly haven’t bullied anyone. All I am doing here is denying your claims that the findings of medical science are untrustworthy or irrelevant because of some conspiracy to confuse and delude the public for financial gain. You’re making up all the rest of it, from your misreading of history to your cheesy pop psychology. And I sleep just fine, thanks. 🙂

    In any case, this discussion has become more than silly, since you insist on making it about me personally rather than sticking to criticizing ideas, arguments, and evidence. I have identified you claims and theories, correctly I believe, as ignorant and bizarre, but I have not stooped to innuendo about your family life or sleep habits. This sort of thing is worthless, and you should not be under the misapprehension that this is a public space in which you are entitled to speak. This is not the town square but a blog, and I do not allow personal attacks. Additional comments of this sort will be deleted. If you have nothing to say other than that those who disagree with you are greedy and generally bad people with emotional issues, then your comments will not be posted.

  32. skeptvet says:

    As expected, Charlie added another comment consisting entirely of opinions about my mental state, which are silly and irrelevant. Banned.

  33. v.t. says:

    Thanks for keeping it real, skeptvet, it’s frustrating to read some of the rants that occur here by those with an obvious ax to grind.

  34. Art says:

    Thanks for keeping it real, skeptvet, it’s frustrating to read some of the rants that occur here by those with an obvious ax to grind.>>>>

    Skeptvet has superpowers 🙂 It takes not only
    a extensive knowledge of vet medicine but the ability and time to put in writing that knowledge so others can understand the issues. I have seen other vets with extensive general small animal and human medicine knowledge. I have seen other vets that were great writers. But never a vet that had both knowledge with his ability to write. I find it difficult to believe only one person is at work here in this blog. It’s amazing what one person in the field of vet medicine is capable of accomplishing if they have the knowledge, training and dedication to do it.

  35. v.t. says:

    Superpowers indeed!

  36. skeptvet says:

    Awww shucks! 🙂

    Unfortunately, my super powers aren’t keeping up with working full time, taking finals and finishing my master’s thesis, and travelling this summer, so it looks like a lean few months on the blog. But I haven’t given up!

  37. v.t. says:

    Better that you are living life and achieving your goals, as opposed to blogger burn-out, which happens so frequently (who could blame anyone, it’s a second job, or in your case, a 5th!)

  38. Pingback: JustFoodForDogs Brings Us Some Classic Marketing Masquerading as Science | The SkeptVet

  39. Janice Henning says:

    Most commercial dog food is made from food not fit for any living creature to eat. Sorry, but there are too many people who have moved away from commercial dog food and their dogs are thriving! Feeding whole foods, meat, fats, veggies and fruits, starches and grains with a daily supplement like Wholistic Canine Complete is 1000 time better than any commercial food.

  40. skeptvet says:

    Oh well, if you say so then it must be true. Who needs science when we could just ask the opinion of a certified personal trainer. Ridiculous arrogance.

  41. Willough says:

    Whether a home cooked diet is superior to commercial diets is largely dependent on the home cooking, I suppose. But this much is irrefutably true–many commercial dog foods use known carcinogens as preservatives, less than ideal fillers, and poor quality meats (read about what animals go into commercial pet foods). In addition, the high heat required to produce kibble (particularly the extrusion process), as well as to cook the meat that is used in commercial dog foods, DOES increase the carcinogens in the food. Heterocyclic amines form when meat is cooked at very high temperatures, breaking down the amino acid creatinine (Please read about it. Information about it came into the news in relation to grilled meats, but it is not exclusive to grilling. It is the result of high heat cooking or processing of any kind). If I am cooking the food I feed my dogs, I know exactly how it was prepared and where it came from–I prefer that. Further, while nutritional studies regarding the impact of diet in dogs with cancer may be sparse at this time, many more studies have been done on the impact of diet in humans with cancer. Drawing from those studies, one can extrapolate the importance of diet in maintaining health is as important for dogs as it is for us.

  42. skeptvet says:

    many commercial dog foods use known carcinogens as preservatives

    Evidence for this?

    Heterocyclic amines form when meat is cooked at very high

    True. However, the research looking at the carcinogenic potential of this comes mostly from lab animal studies and epidemiological observational studies of humans associating meat consumption and cancer risk. There has yet to be any specific study looking at whether the kind and quantity of these substances in commercial diets are associated with actual disease in the real world, or that uncooked or lower-temperature=processed foods are associated with a lower risk. You assume this is true, but it hasn’t actually been shown to be true.

    Drawing from those studies, one can extrapolate the importance of diet in maintaining health is as important for dogs as it is for us.
    One can determine from these studies that humans, a primate, can lower some disease risks by eating a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and less high-fat, high-salt, high-simple-carbohydrate fast food. However, commercial dog foods are very different from the high-risk food humans eat, and dogs are very different from humans. So you cannot legitimately use this research to show that commercial diets are unhealthy. I happen to think it likely that proper home-cooked diets are healthier, but I also think it very unlikely that most owners are able or willing to make such diets, and I think commercial diets are far less harmful than you suggest and far better than inadequate home-cooked diets.

    The problem here is that people make strong, definitive statements about what is healthy or unhealthy without evidence but based only on what seems reasonable to them. This is not the way to generate an accurate understanding of nutrition.

  43. Ruth Ann says:

    After spending the past week scouring the internet for advice on diet for my newly diagnosed pitty mix pup, you have confirmed what my vet told me. To quote her “all this low carb, high fat is a bunch of hooie!” She told me to continue feeding my pup what he was used too (good quality food with some protien added) to help him gain back the weight he’s lost. She actually did her residency at CO State back in the ’90s and has no faith in the cancer diet fad that was started. I have come to the realization that the only reason I was seaching for a special diet was that it would make ME feel better – like I was doing something to help my boy beat this. I will now spend my time loving on him rather than searching for a “miracle” diet. Thanks!

  44. Charo says:

    All I know is home cooked meals saved my dog from being under maintenance medicines for the prevention of gall stones. It took only a few months after the switch until his tests all came back normal and remained normal. Since then, we’ve done away with commercially made pet food such as R.C. and Hill’s, and all the occasional increase in liver test values went away. All this may not be backed up by hard science, but it’s working so well for us and for many other pet parents I know. So, it’s good to know this study, but I do agree with the others here. Preservatives are detrimental for the human body, so why should it be good for our pets? It’s like saying all of a sudden that eating fast food everyday is nutritionally more sound than eating freshly cooked meals. Charlie’s comments may have a grain of truth in it. Let’s not dispose of his ideas too quickly. Personal comments aside, he does have a point. Corporations do put the bottom line first. Always.

  45. v.t. says:

    No one is stopping anyone from attempting to do it better. Go for it. Eventually, you’ll find that in order to stay ahead, you have to make a profit. Fundamental.

    We’ve been living on processed foods and preservatives for a long time, yet, here we are, living longer. I’m not saying we shouldn’t hope for better/healthier solutions in commercial pet food, but considering some of the alternatives, are those alternatives any safer? (so far, not much evidence to say so).

  46. Charo says:

    Fundamental to corporations, yes, but not to pet owners. Fortunately for us, we don’t have to make a profit out of the food we make for our pets.

    Anyway, we are living longer because medicine and research are finding more effective ways to treat diseases. That’s all great, but the advantages of fresh nutrition cannot be discounted. Lifestyle changes on diet and exercise have helped humans and pets prevent illness and recover from them.

    I’m in no position to refute this study, but from my own experiences, the combination of hard and natural sciences has worked wonders. They work best with each other.

    I do agree that everyone has a choice to make it better, and there can be a number of solutions to one problem. So, please try to provide encouragement and openness instead of a dead end. You can reach more people this way; assuming that this is one of your purposes for creating this blog, of course.

    Thank you.

  47. Luis says:

    Hi Dr. Skeptvet ,

    I really liked this article , I’ve been reading a lot about low carb diets for pets with cancer.

    My dog had skin melanoma 2 weeks ago , my vet removed the moles and did an X ray and an ultrasound and all came clean , he said he needs no further treatment.

    But I was thinking in changing his diet , or at least remove some carbs from it.
    I don`t know how much it will help.

    The diet I feed him was made by a veterinary nutricionist and it does meet AFFCO as well as NRC recommended allowances.

    It has turkey, beef liver , mackerel , vegetables , pumpkin and brown rice and all the other vitamins , minerals and omega 3 oils to balance the diet.

    The only starchy carb I feed him is brown rice about 150 gms. per day (he weighs 55 lbs.) I guess you will recommend me to stick with it , right ?

    About 8 years ago I changed my pets diet when he was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy and start to feed him hills h/d , I started to notice his skin turned dull and lost hair.
    So I started giving him a homecooked diet , and my vet didn’t like it at first , now my dog is 13 yrs. and now my vet tells me that because of this diet he is in a very good shape for a dog his age.

    To date he has recommended a homecooked diet for about 10 of his clients.

    I don`t doubt about the expertise and knowledge of the pet food companies regarding dog or cat nutrition , because my homecooked diet contains almost the same quantities of the same nutrients.

    My only complaint is the quality of the ingredients they use as well as all the other preservatives and additives that are not so well researched as for their safety.

    Thank you

  48. skeptvet says:

    The evidence for low-carb diets in cancer patients is intriguing, but it is not clear that these diets actually improve outcomes for most. I don’t object to trying them so long as the pet continues to eat well, maintains weight and lean body mass, and has good stool, etc. However, with only limited theoretical evidence for benefits, I wouldn’t restrict carbs or push protein if it reduces appetite or weight, causes vomiting or diarrhea, or otherwise reduces quality of life.

  49. Sabra says:

    Can dogs get enough phytochemicals from dry food to fight cancer?

  50. skeptvet says:

    Unfortunately, the question is really too broad to answer. It assumes that the general class of “phytochemicals,” which just means chemicals in plants, has some kind of effect on some or all of the hundreds of different types of cancer and that there is a greater benefit with a greater amount of such chemicals. None of these are really proven, or even testable, concepts. To make such a judgement, we need to be much more specific. We need to ask whether specific chemicals have meaningful beneficial effects in patients with particular cancers and determine how much and in what form they must be provided to obtain these benefits. This kind of information doesn’t exist for most plant chemicals, so there is no way to answer your question.

    Another way of looking at this is whether or not specific foods improve quality of life or survival in patients with specific cancers. Again, there is very little research on this. It is often claimed that various dietary approaches can prevent or improve cancer, but these claims usually lack real supporting evidence.

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