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Cancer in Dogs

See Also:

Photo courtesy of "Better to hop on three legs than to limp on four."

Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian, nor do I have any formal training in any medical field. The information presented here is not meant to replace your vet's advice or prescribed medications, but only to suggest additional options to explore, based on your dog's condition.

Update March 2020: While I try to update this page (and the rest of my site) whenever I learn anything new, a lot of what appears below was written more than ten years ago. For more current information, here are two websites maintained by veterinary oncologists that you may find helpful:

General Information on Diet and Supplements

For many types of cancer, increasing protein and fat and reducing carbohydrates (starches) in the diet can help to slow tumor growth and prevent cancer cachexia (weight loss due to the effects of the cancer). It is also important to increase omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, and decrease omega-6 fatty acids, found in plant oils. The best source of DHA (highest concentration) is from oils that come from algae, such as Algal-900 DHA (also available at Amazon), according to Dr. Ogilvie (see below). Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in fish oil (such as salmon oil) Give an amount of fish oil that provides around 300 mg combined EPA and DHA per 10 lbs of body weight daily, preferably split into two doses. Do not use cod liver oil, as the amount of vitamins A and D would be excessive when given at high doses. Do not use flax seed oil in place of algae or fish oil, as the form of omega-3 fatty acid found in plants must be converted to EPA and DHA in order to be utilized by dogs, and this conversion is inefficient at best, nonexistent at worst. Flax seed oil also contains some omega-6 fatty acids, which should be avoided.

Dr. Ogilvie DVM has done research at Colorado State University on a cancer starving diet. You can read Dr. Ogilvie's paper, Nutrition and Cancer, or see an article about his research with information on homemade diets, Nutrition for Dogs with Cancer (see updated diets under Cancer Diet). See the article entitled Total Cancer Management in Small Animals for some good information on diet, supplements and alternative treatments for cancer. Also see Diets for the Cancer Patient for a short summary.

Also see Keto Diet Dogs Cancer … Good Idea or Bad Idea? on the Dog Canceer blog for more information about ketogenic diets.

Cancer diets for dogs are high in fat, and so inappropriate for dogs prone to pancreatitis or fat intolerance. See Diet for your Dog with Cancer and Pancreatitis from Dr. Nancy Reese for information on how to modify a high-fat cancer diet for dogs that need a low-fat diet (podcast and transcript from

Note: see Mast Cell Cancer below for dietary guidelines for dogs with mast cell tumors, which are different from those for other types of tumors.

Selenium is the only mineral known to have antitumorigenic and preventative properties. The NRC  tripled their recommended daily amount in 2006, while AAFCO guidelines have not yet been changed. Too much selenium can be harmful, however. A safe supplemental dosage for both prevention and treatment of cancer would be 2 to 4 mcg per kg (1 to 2 mcg per pound) of body weight daily. For example, a 25 lb dog would benefit from 25 to 50 mcg selenium daily. Selenium works synergistically with vitamin E, so it is best to supplement these two nutrients together. See Vitamin E for my current recommendations on vitamin E supplementation.

Rx Onco Support from Rx Vitamins contains a number of whole food ingredients, including l-arginine, plus vitamins and minerals (including selenium) that support the immune system. Available from Amazon.

Recent research indicates that Bromelain, an enzyme that comes from pineapples, may have an anti-cancer effect. Bromelain is used with dogs as an anti-inflammatory and for many other conditions, and should be safe to give. It may work best when given away from meals.

Modified citrus pectin may help slow or prevent metastasis. See Modified Citrus Pectin, Dogs, and Cancer from the Dog Cancer Blog for more information.

Branch-chain amino acids (BCAA), e.g., leucine, isoleucine and valine, may help to counteract cancer cachexia, where the dog loses lean body mass despite consuming adequate calories. You can find branch-chain amino acid supplements made for people. A safe non-toxic dose of leucine for veterinary patients may be approximately 100 - 200 mg  per kg (50-100 mg per pound) of body weight daily. For example, a 25 lb dog would get 1,250 to 2,500 mg leucine daily.

The amino acids L-Arginine and L-Glutamine may help inhibit tumor growth. Glutamine can also help with muscle wasting (cachexia) that may occur as well. And l-glutamine helps protect the intestinal lining and reduces gastrointestinal side effects during chemotherapy. See the following articles for more information:

Cartilage supplements may inhibit tumor growth. I heard one anecdotal report directly from someone with a toy poodle that had a major mass in his chest. After two bottles of Bovine Cartilage supplements, the mass was almost gone, and he went on to live another six years. Since cartilage is safe and inexpensive (and may help with arthritis as well), this one seems like it might be worth a try, though scientific support is negligible.

Supplements that support or stimulate the immune system, including antioxidants, are often recommended for cancer prevention and support. See Sensible Supplements for Immunonutrition for more info.

Supplements to give or avoid during chemotherapy or radiation

High doses of antioxidants should be avoided during chemotherapy, as they may actually help the cancer cells survive the treatment. Antioxidants include vitamins A, C, and E, beta carotene, selenium, lipoic acid, and SAM-e. Discontinue use one week before chemotherapy treatment, and resume one week after the treatment has been completed.

Garlic may interfere with the body's ability to rid itself of toxic chemotherapy drugs.

A number of supplements can thin the blood and make bleeding more likely during surgery, or due to the reduction in platelets (thrombocytopenia) that can be caused by chemotherapy, or by bone cancer. Herbs that may need to be avoided include garlic, ginseng, ginkgo, saw palmetto, red clover, German chamomile, dong guai, angelica root and white willow bark. In addition, fish oil, evening primrose oil, borage oil, vitamin A, high-dose vitamin E, chondroitin, ginger, bromelain, MSM, alfalfa, hawthorne, meadowsweet, turmeric/curcumin, bilberry, feverfew, and some mushrooms all have the potential to thin the blood, though I have not seen specific recommendations to avoid them during cancer treatment. Aspirin is a potent blood-thinner; other NSAIDs have less effect. If in doubt, ask your vet.

Glucosamine, given as an oral rinse, helps to reduce mouth ulceration (stomatitis) caused by radiation to the head and neck. Glucosamine may also help to prevent intestinal and neurological side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Fish oil, such as salmon oil or EPA oil (not cod liver oil) helps to reduce cancer cachexia (weight loss due to cancer) and appears to increase the effects of chemotherapy.

Ginger can help with nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, but its antioxidant properties may offset the benefit of some chemotherapy drugs. You can use products such as Ginger-Mint from Animals' Apawthecary, Tasha's Ginger Tummy and Minty Ginger from Herbs for Kids (available at Whole Foods and other health food stores). You can also give ginger capsules or ginger tea.

The article When Pets Complete Chemotherapy Are They Cancer-Free? talks about using the following supplements during chemotherapy:

See the following resources for more information.

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Treatment for Specific Types of Cancer

Mast Cell cancer

Surgery is the preferred treatment for mast cell tumors in the majority of cases. There are times, however, when surgery may not be the best option. See Key points for managing cutaneous mast cell tumors in dogs for an article written by a veterinary oncologist in 2019 that talks about the issues involved in this decision.

Update: Stelfonta, the first intratumoral injection to treat non-metastatic mast cell tumors in dogs, was approved by the FDA in November 2020. Talk to your veterinarian about whether this approach is indicated for your dog.

The standard ketogenic (high protein and fat, low carbohydrate) diet may not be helpful for dogs with mast cell cancer. Instead, your dog may need a low-histamine diet, but only if your dog has active mast cell tumors and is showing symptoms of excess histamine. If your dog is not currently vomiting, itching, feeling sick, having reduced appetite, or swelling as a consequence of histamine load, there is likely little point in reducing histamine levels in his or her diet. See Food and Nutrition for Dogs with Mast Cell Tumors and Diet for Dogs With Mast Cell Tumors for more information on a low-histamine diet.

Remember that supplements such as those below should be used in addition to surgery, if possible, rather than in place of it. Supplements would not be needed for low-grade mast cell tumors that are completely removed, but could be worth trying if your dog has inoperable tumors, high-grade tumors, or tumors that were not completely excised during surgery.

Turmeric (curcumin)
I have read second hand of a dog with aggressive, metastasized Mast Cell cancer that had most of his tumors go away when given Curcumin, an extract from Turmeric (see Alternative treatment for mast cell tumors!). This is a spice used in curry that has been showing promising results in the prevention and treatment of cancer (it is also a natural anti-inflammatory). It works both by cutting off the blood supply to the growing tumor as well as causes tumor cell death (p53 mediated apoptosis). According to the post above, which I have not been able to verify, the recommended dosage of curcumin for treatment of cancer is 80 mg/kg/day (36 mg/lb/day), or 400 mg twice a day for a 25 lb dog, administered orally (the highest recommended dosage is 120 mg/kg/day, or 55 mg/lb/day, to avoid toxicity). Give with food and start with lower dosage, increasing gradually, to avoid stomach upset.

Curcumin and turmeric are available over the counter through health food stores.See the following for more information:

Turmeric comes in both powder and capsule form. Curcumin extracts are 18 times as potent as turmeric powder, so dosage should be adjusted correspondingly. Turmeric has blood-thinning properties, so discontinue for a week before and after surgery.

Giving turmeric with bromelain, a natural anti-inflammatory, may help increase absorption and effectiveness. An article on Degenerative Myelopathy German Shepherd Dogs recommends giving 400-500 mg each turmeric extract and bromelain twice a day to a large dog (400-500 mg turmeric extract would be equivalent to 7.2 to 9 grams of turmeric powder, or about 1.5 to 2 teaspoons of powder).

IP-6 has been around for a long time and I haven't heard much in the way of reliable success stories, but I was contacted recently by someone whose dog had mast cell tumors recur after surgery, and whose tumors reduced substantially in size when she began supplementing with IP6. This dog did succumb to mast cell cancer about 5 months later, but she feels IP-6 helped to prolong his life, and might have done more had she started it sooner. The Cell Forte IP-6 and Inositol brand is recommended.

For more information on mast cell cancer, see the following articles on the Dog Cancer Blog site (search the site for more articles as well):

Also see the following:

In June 2009, the FDA approved a new drug for the treatment of mast cell tumors that recur after they have been surgically removed. In January, 2011, another new drug for treatment of mast cell tumors that recur or cannot be removed surgically received conditional approval. See Palladia and Masitinib for Mast Cell Tumors below for additional information.

In November 2020, the FDA approved the first intratumoral injection to treat non-metastatic mast cell tumors in dogs. The drug is called Stelfonta (tigilanol tiglate). See Stelfonta for Dogs with Mast Cell Tumors: New Injectable Drug!, written by cancer veterinarian Dr. Sue Ettinger in May 2021, for more information.

For up-to-date information on Mast Cell Tumors in Dogs, see the Pet Cancer Center.

Lymphoma/Lymphosarcoma and Leukemia

Lymphoma is one cancer that is very responsive to chemotherapy, which can induce remission for up to a year or even longer, but will not cure the disease. Many people are reluctant to do chemotherapy for fear that it will make their dogs feel awful, but most dogs tolerate the treatment very well. Lower doses of chemotherapeutic drugs are used with dogs than with people, so it doesn't affect them as strongly. See Stages of Treatment for Cancer in Pets for a general overview.

Do not give prednisone to your dog unless there is no chance you will do chemotherapy! Prednisone can be used as a less expensive alternative to other chemotherapeutic agents, but the remission will be much shorter. While many dogs will experience significant short-term improvement, the duration of that improvement is typically on the order of only 1-2 months, and prednisone may induce chemotherapy resistance. In other words, chemotherapy is much less likely to work after a patient is treated with predisone alone and then comes out of remission (Advances in Treatment for Canine Lymphoma, Part 2). Veterinary Partner concurs, saying, "Exposure to prednisone will make the lymphoma much more difficult to diagnose should biopsies be obtained later. Plus exposure to prednisone can lead to resistance to other medications. (This is less of a problem for cats, but in dogs even a few days of prednisone can make a lasting remission impossible to achieve.)" Purdue Comparitive Oncology Program is conducting a study to assess the importance of prednisone in a combination chemotherapy protocol (UW-25) for canine lymphoma.

The most common form of chemotherapy for lymphoma is called the CHOP protocol. From veterinary oncologist Dr. Susan Ettinger's blog post, What I Would Do for My Dog with Lymphoma:

This protocol is a cyclic protocol usually lasting 5 to 6 months. In each cycle, the protocol includes vincristine, cyclophosphamide, and Adriamycin (doxorubicin). In the 1st cycle (usually the 1st treatment), the dog may also receive Elspar. Prednisone, a steroid, is also given orally daily for the 1st 4 weeks during the 1st 4-week cycle. It’s typically a nineteen-week protocol, and it involves plenty of vet visits and some heavy-duty chemotherapy drugs.

If it sounds like a lot, you’re right, it is. So why do I universally recommend it?

For dogs with lymphoma, chemotherapy has a significant and positive effect on not only how long a dog lives but how well they live. Let’s look at some numbers.

Typically, a dog with lymphoma lives only one (1!) month without treatment.

The median survival time with a multi-agent chemotherapy protocol is 13 to 14 months.

So if your dog has lymphoma, and you don’t treat with chemo, you would expect to have one month more with your dog. But if you DO get the CHOP protocol, it would be reasonable to expect that your dog would live another 13 months.

Diet and supplements can help with this form of cancer. "Research conducted at Colorado State University' Veterinary Teaching Hospital supports that high protein and lower carbohydrate diets, associated with higher levels of healthy fatty acids, including fish oil fatty acids in high dosages, and supplemental arginine, has shown statistically significant improvement in survival times in canine lymphoma patients." (Integrative Veterinary Medicine). A high dosage of fish oil (body oil, such as salmon oil or EPA oil, not cod liver oil) is an amount that supplies 300 mg combined EPA and DHA per 10 lbs of body weight daily. Be sure to give vitamin E as well when you supplement with oils. See Vitamin E for my current recommendations on vitamin E supplementation.

In February 2021, research suggested that some English bulldogs diagnosed with B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (BCLL) may, in fact, have a non-cancerous syndrome called polyclonal B‐cell lymphocytosis. See Cancer misdiagnosis may be common in English bulldogs.

In January, 2021, the FDA gave conditional approval to Laverdia-CA1 (verdinexor tablets), the first oral pill approved to treat lymphoma in dogs.

In 2017, the FDA conditionally approved Tanovea-CA1 (rabacfosadine) from Vet DC, an injectable drug for treatment of lymphoma in dogs. It is expected to be available to veterinarians in the Spring of 2017. In June, 2016, VetDC announced that in a trial involving 54 dogs with lymphoma, the drug, Tanovea (rabacfosadine), produced an 81% response rate when given in conjunction with the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin. The median progression-free survival was 200 days, which was superior to what’s generally achieved with doxorubicin alone, according to a press release. See VetDC scores positive results in trial of canine lymphoma drug and Lymphoma's Newest Enemy for more information.

May 2016: See Updates in Canine Lymphoma for an overview of new therapies, including monoclonal antibodies and other immunotherapies.

December 2015: A novel treatment that aims to train the immune system to recognize new cancer cells and facilitate their destruction before they form new tumors is called T-cell monoclonal antibody (MAb). Read more about it in this article: The Use of Novel Therapeutics to Treat Lymphoma in a Dog. Unfortunately, later trials did not show as much improvement as hoped. See Aratana Suffers Setback on Canine Lymphoma Products

October 2011: Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine tested a vaccine made from the dog's own blood against B-Cell Lymphoma (also called non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma). While vaccinated dogs relapsed at the same rate as unvaccinated dogs, their response to a second "rescue" round of chemotherapy resulted in much better survival rates, with some dogs surviving three years or longer. See A Potential Giant Step Forward in Lymphoma Treatment and Penn Researchers Demonstrate Efficacy of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Vaccine for more information.

September 2010: The University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine is conducting a study on dogs with multicentric lymphoma using new drugs. See University of Illinois veterinary researchers find success with lymphoma treatment for more information on the treatment. See Treatment of Canine Multicentric Lymphoma With Novel Anticancer Agents for information on how to enroll in the study.

In September, 2008, North Carolina State University announced that they are now offering bone marrow transplants for dogs, the same as is done for humans. The cure rate is expected to be at least 50%. The cost is approximately $15,000. The treatment is only available for dogs who weigh at least 18 to 20 pounds. Several other facilities are also now offering this treatment, including one in Bellingham, Washington, which has successfully treated (cured) more than 100 dogs as of June 2014, with a cure rate of 50 percent. See Bone Marrow Transplants Promising for Treating Canine Lymphoma for more information.

n 2014, Avacta Animal Health introduced the Canine Lymphoma Blood Test (cLBT). For now, the test is apparently only available in the UK. This test appears to replace an earlier test from PetScreen introduced in 2007.

In 2010, Veterinary Diagnostics Institute introduced the VDI-TK Canine Cancer blood test, later renamed the TKcanine cancer panel, for detecting and monitoring lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma. Note this is not a screening test for cancer, but is used to confirm diagnosis and monitor progression and response to treatment. More info:

It is difficult to distinguish Lymphoma from Acute Leukemia, another form of cancer that affects white blood cells and causes lymph node enlargement. Despite their similarities, treatment and prognosis are completely different. See the following for more information:

See these sites for general information on lymphoma in dogs, including chemotherapy protocols and personal stories:

Malignant Histiocytosis

See these sites for general information on malignant histiocytosis in dogs:

Studies have been done in 1996-1999 indicating that treatment with TALL-104 induced remission in dogs, but I can't find information about this treatment being available, just the studies:
"It has also been reported that treatment with the human major histocompatibility complex, nonrestricted, cytotoxic T-cell line TALL-104 induced complete remission in four dogs with advanced disseminated histiosarcoma for time periods ranging from 9 to 22 months."

Here are the studies themselves, in reverse chronological order:

Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC)

There is now a urine test that detects a veterinary bladder tumor antigen (v-TBA) that can be used to help diagnose TCC, though false positives are common (78% specificity). False positive test results may occur when samples contain blood, protein or glucose. False negative test results are less common than false positive results (90% sensitivity). Scotties are 18 times prone to transitional cell carcinoma than other breeds. Note the article in the link above reversed the percentages of sensitivity and specificity -- see V-BTA Test Package Insert for the correct information

Piroxicam (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) has shown success with bladder cancer (Transitional Cell Carcinoma). See these articles for more info:

Preliminary trials are also underway using carprofen (Rimadyl) and deracoxib (Deramaxx) in place of Piroxicam. Early results (as of February 2011) appear promising, but we won't know for some time how well they work. See Antitumor effects of deracoxib treatment in 26 dogs with transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder for more information.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

New Approaches to Squamous Cell Cancer talks about photodyamic therapy and the use of COX-2 inhibitors to treat squamous cell carcinomas. Many NSAIDs are considered COX-2 inhibitors -- see NSAIDs for more information. The vet who wrote about this has developed and is promoting a supplement called Apocaps (also available from Amazon), though this appears to be an antioxidant supplement rather than a COX-2 inhibitor. He warns that the dosage of Apocaps should be reduced by half when they are combined with NSAIDs or prednisone.


A study published in the September 1, 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reported that a single subcutaneous infusion of the chemotherapy drug carboplatin given after surgery resulted in similar survival times and adverse effects when compared to traditional chemotherapy protocols for osteosarcoma that involved giving drugs intravenously multiple times over the course of several weeks. See Chemotherapy Made Simple for more information.

The use of bisphosphonates can help to alleviate pain from osteosarcoma when surgery is not an option. When pamidronate, a second-generation bisphosphonate, is given intravenously once a month in addition to other pain medications, about 30% of treated patients achieved durable pain alleviation in excess of four months. Radiation therapy, however, remains the most effective treatment for controlling osteosarcoma pain in dogs, so this treatment should be considered in addition to, rather than instead of, radiation therapy. See Will pamidronate help manage osteosarcoma pain? for more information.

Also see this series of articles on osteosarcoma, written by a veterinary oncologist:

Also see A Primer on Osteosarcoma for basic information about this disease.

Two new treatments for osteosarcoma are currently being studied, see Osteosarcoma under New Treatments below.

Palladia (toceranib), a drug originally approved to treat mast cell tumors, is also being used to treat osteosarcoma. See Palladia and Masitinib for Mast Cell Tumors, Osteosarcoma, and more below.

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New Treatments


Dr. Nicola Mason from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine is currently researching a new vaccine for osteosarcoma (bone cancer). While the treatment has only been tried on a few dogs so far, preliminary results are very encouraging. If you live in the area and have a dog with osteosarcoma, you might be able to participate in one of the studies. You can contact Dr. Mason’s at 215-898-3996 or by e-mail at See New Hope for Treating Osteosarcoma on the Horizon for more information.

A clinical trial on targeted treatment for osteosarcoma in dogs is being conducted in Portland, Oregon as of 2014. See KGW story on Cancer Research for Dogs for more information.

Mammary Tumors

Immunocidin from NovaVive in Canada was approved for the treatment of mixed mammary tumor and mammary adenocarcinoma in dogs. It is injected into the tumor itself but may affect other areas of the body as well. Bioniche Animal Health, a Canadian biopharmaceutical company, launched its Immunocidin canine oncology therapy in October 2012. Product developers are anticipating approval of the treatment for other forms of cancer in coming years. Immunocidin is available in the U.S. and Canada. See Immunocidin for more info.

As of 2013, there has been a lot of discussion about the effects of spaying (and neutering) on cancer. See Mammary Tumors: New Finding in Dogs for updated information on mammary cancer risks and their relationship to spaying.


A study published in 2014 showed that dogs with high levels of vitamin D in their bodies were less likely to get hemangiosarcoma. The study did not determine how much vitamin D should be given in order to achieve these levels in the body. See Dog Cancer (hemangiosarcoma) is rare if more than 100 ng of vitamin D – July 2014

Veterinarians at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine conducted a small study using a mushroom extract to treat dogs with hemangiosarcoma. Results were published in September, 2012:

Dogs with hemangiosarcoma that were treated with a compound derived from the Coriolus versicolor mushroom had the longest survival times ever reported for dogs with the disease.

A new study to further evaluate the benefits of this Traditional Chinese Medicine Supplement started in December 2013. See the Penn Vet Clinical Trial page for more information and eligibility guidelines if you live in the area and might be interested in participating.

The mushroom extract, called I’m-Yunity, is available now and appears to be safe to try. The extract is fairly expensive, however, particularly for large dogs. Each 400 mg capsule costs between $1.10 and $1.58, depending on the quantity purchased at one time. Dosages used in the study ranged from 25 to 100 mg/kg (11 to 45 mg/lb) of body weight daily. At 25 mg/kg, that would be one 400 mg capsule per 35 pounds of body weight daily. Differences in survival time between the different doses was not statistically significant, so it's possible that lower doses might have some beneficial effect as well.

See the following for more information:

Another Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbal supplement that may be helpful in preventing or controlling internal bleeding is called Yunnan Baiyao (also spelled Yunnan Paiyao). Yunnan baiyao is a blend of herbal ingredients, not one single plant. See Yunnan Baiyao for Dogs: Chinese Herb for Bleeding Dog Cancers on the Dog Cancer Blog for more information. Warning: the Chinese company that makes Yunnan Baiyao trades in pangolin scales, an endangered species. Please boycott this company and this product (there are other options available). See Pangolin finding raises ethical question for veterinarians for more info.

In 2010, Veterinary Diagnostics Institute introduced the VDI-TK Canine Cancer blood test, later renamed the TKcanine cancer panel, for detecting and monitoring lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma. Note this is not a screening test for cancer, but is used to confirm diagnosis and monitor progression and response to treatment. More info:

New Treatment for Brain Cancer

The University of Minnesota School of Veterinary Medicine opened clinical trials of a new form of cancer therapy in June 2009. Any dog with a primary brain tumor may be eligible for free treatment. See New Therapy for Brain Cancer for more information.

Palladia and Masitinib for Mast Cell Tumors, Osteosarcoma, and more

In June 2009, the FDA approved a new drug for the treatment of mast cell tumors that recur after they have been surgically removed. The drug is called Palladia (toceranib phosphate) and is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) manufactured by Pfizer. For now, it will only be available to cancer and internal medicine specialists. The price is not known, but it is likely to be expensive.

In the initial study of 86 dogs treated with Palladia, the tumor disappeared in 8.1% and shrank in another 29.1%. In addition, tumors stopped growing in 20.9% of the dogs.

In January, 2011, the FDA also gave conditional approval to Masitinib mesylate, marketed as Kinavet-CA1, a new drug for treating mast cell tumors that recur or cannot be surgically removed. Like Palladia, masitinib is also a tyrosine kinase inhibitor. It has been used previously in Europe. (Update: the conditional approval expired in 2015 so this drug is no longer available.)

These drugs are given continuously daily or every other day for 12 months or longer. Regular monitoring of blood work is recommended weekly for the first six weeks, then every six weeks thereafter (or monthly for six months, then going to every other month if everything is going well).

The major side effects seen with TKIs are adverse gastrointestinal signs. Concurrent treatment with famotidine (Pepcid, an antacid), maropitant citrate (Cerenia, used to control vomiting), metronidazole (Flagyl), and sucralfate (Carafate, used to prevent and treat gastric ulceration) can help to prevent gastrointestinal toxicity that can be caused by these drugs.

A study published in 2013 showed that lower doses of Palladia may be just as effective with fewer side effects. See Evaluation of the adverse event profile and pharmacodynamics of toceranib phosphate administered to dogs with solid tumors at doses below the maximum tolerated dose, which concludes, "Doses of toceranib ranging from 2.4-2.9 mg/kg every other day provide drug exposure considered sufficient for target inhibition while resulting in an adverse event profile substantially reduced from that associated with the label dose of toceranib. This lower dose range of toceranib should be considered for future use in dogs with cancer."

Other types of tumors that have demonstrated response to Palladia include anal sac adenocarcinomas, metastatic osteosarcomas, thyroid carcinomas, nasal carcinomas, melanomas, squamous cell carcinomas, multiple myeloma and transitional cell carcinomas.

See the following for more info:

Also see Stelfonta for Dogs with Mast Cell Tumors: New Injectable Drug!, written by cancer veterinarian Dr. Sue Ettinger in May 2021, for information on the first intratumoral injection to treat non-metastatic mast cell tumors in dogs approved by the FDA in 2020.

Mirtazapine for nausea, appetite stimulation and mast cell tumors

A relatively new drug called mirtazapine (Remeron) is being used to treat dogs with cancer. It helps to stimulated the appetite, and to reduce nausea and vomiting that can be caused by chemotherapy. It also has an antihistamine effect, which can be helpful to dogs with mast cell tumors. Lastly, it also acts as an antidepressant. See Mirtazapine for Dog Cancer for more information.

Cisplatin Beads as an alternative to chemotherapy

Following removal of a cancerous tumor, it is now possible to implant tiny cisplatin beads around the tumor site rather than using this chemotherapy drug systemically. The beads should prevent the tumor from recurring in the same location, although it will not prevent the cancer from spreading, such as to the lungs. The beads are associated with far fewer side effects than when cisplatin is administered systemically; in particular, the kidney failure that cisplatin can cause does not appear to be a risk with these beads. Ideally, the beads are planted at the same time that the tumor is removed. There is a limit to how many beads can be used, so this will not work for very large tumors. Cisplatin beads are currently being used for tumors removed with "thin margins," including:

This therapy began to be used with dogs and cats in 2006, so there is limited history but it appears quite promising. They were originally used with horses. See the following for more information:

I originally read about this therapy in Dr. Phil Zeltzman's newsletter dated 2/27/09. While his newsletters are not available on his site, you might be able to contact him for a copy of this newsletter.

CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid)

CLA is a fatty acid that inhibits the development of tumors. I've heard of a dog with breast cancer metastasis that was having success with this therapy. This nutrient is found primarily in the meat and milk products of pasture-raised, grass-fed animals. See the following articles for more information:


Some new studies suggest that Melatonin may be effective against certain types of cancer. It can also help combat some of the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, when given in high doses (one person was advised by a cancer specialist to give her 120-lb dog 20-40 mg each night at bedtime while undergoing radiation treatment).. Melatonin has been used with dogs to combat thunderstorm phobias and certain forms of alopecia (hair loss), and is being tried as a treatment for separation anxiety, so it is safe to use with dogs, at least in moderation. See the following for a little more info on its use with cancer (most are human-oriented):

Anti-angiogenic therapy

Anti-angiogenic drugs are showing some success at slowing tumor growth by cutting off their blood supply. Palladia (toceranib) was the first such drug to be approved by the FDA for treating cancer in dogs. The Angiogenesis Foundation pioneered the first use of antiangiogenic therapies in canine cancers in 2000, including the Navy Protocol, which apparently has since fallen out of favor.

Doxycycline helps suppress angiogenesis (new blood vessel formation that feeds tumors and robs the body). See An Antibiotic for Dog Cancer for more information.

Curcumin has also been found to have anti-angiogenic properties, and may be particularly effective against tumors in the stomach and intestines. See Mast Cell Cancer above and Intestinal Cancer and Curcumin for Dogs for more information on curcumin.


New research being done at the University of Washington is showing promise for treating some specific cancers with an herbal extract that has been used for malaria, called Artemisinin. It has low toxicity when given in proper doses orally, and has shown some effectiveness with osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and lymphosarcoma in dogs when used at a dosage of 50-100 mg twice a day for a large breed. It is also being used to treat breast cancer in humans. It is apparently more effective when given along with iron salts.

See the following for more information, several of which mention studies done with dogs:

DNA vaccine for malignant melanoma

A DNA vaccine for the treatment of malignant melanomas received full approved by the USDA in January 2009 (conditional approval was received in 2007). See the following for more information:

Vetivax vaccine for solid tumors

Vetivax is a series of three injections that prime an animal's immune system to fight cancer. As of May 2017, tthe $1,200 treatment has been used in over 150 animals, demonstrated initial response against 11 types of cancer and given 60% of patients longer life than expected. Vetivax is used to treat solid tumors at least 5 cm (2 inches) in diameter after surgical removal (the vaccine is made from the tumor itself).

PawPaw for drug-resistant tumors

In 1997, a researcher at Purdue found that a fruit called PawPaw (asimina triloba) showed promise in fighting drug-resistant tumors. This product has since become commercially available. Most of the information I found is from commercial sites, so it's hard to know how reliable it is, but here are some links to check out:


A compound called DCA (sodium dichloroacetate) is being studied at the University of Alberta, where researchers report seemingly remarkable anticancer properties. This compound cannot be patented, and so pharmaceutical companies are showing little interest, but the University is trying to start human clinical trials. In the meantime, some people have produced this compound and made it available to purchase labeled for veterinary use, which doesn't require the same level of approval as human drugs do. You can read about it at The DCA Site. You may be able to purchase it from a compounding pharmacy, if you can get your vet to give your a prescription. This is very new as of early 2007, so we don't know a lot about the safety of DCA --  serious adverse effects were seen at medium and high dosage levels (39.5 to 72 mg/kg/day), and a few even at low dosage (12.5 mg/kg/day) in this study. It appears that the dosage people are trying with their dogs is 10-15 mg/kg/day, split into multiple doses rather than given all at once. Until more is known, I don't think it would be wise to use this compound unless you know your dog's cancer is terminal and other options have been exhausted.

I have heard indirectly of two people who are trying this treatment for dogs with lymphoma, both Golden Retrievers. These dogs are being fed a modified high-protein, low-carbohydrate homemade diet appropriate for dogs with cancer, and given immune-boosting supplements such as bromelain, turmeric and grapeseed, along with the DCA therapy. Here is some additional information from someone who is in contact with the owners of these dogs:

"The side effects of DCA are minimal compared to chemotherapy. The main problem seems to be acidification of the blood leading to progressive numbness in extremities. So the treatment is cyclic. For example two weeks of treatment followed by a few days respite to allow the acidity to recover. This first dog started to experience side effects after about 5 weeks of treatment but recovered within a couple of days. At nine weeks following diagnosis, the dog outwardly seems completely normal and not showing the usual symptoms of progression of the Lymphoma. Right now she should be dead. Last weekend she was out upland hunting for the day and maintained a normal high level of stamina throughout." The second dog is also doing well, but is at an earlier stage.

See DCA Therapy Data for a report on the use of DCA in human cancer patients. This site has observational data on 118 cancer patients treated with DCA, but it is not a controlled study. They are using a treatment regimen of 1-3 weeks on followed by 1 week off, with doses ranging from 15 to 75 mg/kg/day (average 25 mg/kg/day). They are also giving vitamin B1 and Alpha Lipoic Acid to try to counteract some of the side effects (see DCA Therapy for more info). They conclude, "It is our opinion that DCA is a useful and relatively safe medical treatment for cancer patients who have exhausted scientifically proven treatment options. However, just like chemotherapy, the response to DCA depends on the individual patient. Based on clinical judgment, it is difficult to predict which patients are more likely to respond to DCA. Chemosensitivity tests like ChemoFit™ may help predict response to DCA. We are not yet able to determine duration of response to DCA treatment. In our opinion, long term treatment with DCA may be limited by neuropathy. We will present more data on this once available."

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More Information

Pain Management: See Dog Cancer Pain Control and my own page on Chronic Pain.

National Veterinary Cancer Registry
New as of June 2013. Sign your dog up to contribute data and to potentially be matched to a clinical trial.

Blood tests to detect cancer?
In June 2009, BioCurex announced a new test for cancer detection in dogs, called OncoPet, based on its RECAF(tm) technology. In preliminary tests, the company claims that the test detected 85% of cancers with 5% false positives. 5% false positives means that 5% of all dogs without cancer will be identified as having cancer, a number that may well be higher than the number of dogs with cancer who are accurately identified.. The test does not identify the type of cancer, or where in the body it is found, and does not work for all forms of cancer. The human test has been licensed for several years, yet no product has yet been produced. I was unable to find any information on either test except from the company that developed them. The OncoPet test became available in Spring 2010, but is still at the study stage. It's questionable whether this test will work as promised. See BioCurex Inc. has developed OncoPet(tm), a blood test to be used for cancer detection in dogs and New Cancer Blood Test for Pets for additional information.

Another blood test that claims to identify cancer in the early stages, called AMAS (Anti-malignin Antibody and Serum),  is offered by Oncolab. However, there is little science behind this test. Because this test has been around for over 20 years and yet is not in widespread use, I doubt it has much value. See the following for more info:

Warning about chemotherapy for dogs with MDR1 gene mutation
The drugs Doxorubicin, Vincristine and Vinblastine are among the drugs that some dogs may be sensitive to. The MDR1 mutation causes multidrug sensitivity in some breeds, including Australian Shepherds (standard and miniature), Border Collies, Collies, English Shepherds, German Shepherds, Longhaired Whippets, McNabs, Old English Sheepdogs, Shetland Sheepdogs, Silken Windhounds, and mixed-breed dogs from any of these breeds (see Dogs with a Drug Problem and Multidrug Sensitivity in Dogs for information about other drugs these breeds may be sensitive to, which include ivermectin, acepromazine, and others).

Books, email lists and web sites with more info
The Natural Vet's Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs by Shawn Messonnier. I have not seen this book myself, but it  has been recommended to me. It provides a good overview of both conventional and alternative methods of preventing and treating cancer.

Help Your Dog Fight Cancer: An Overview of Home Care Options by Laurie Kaplan. I have not read the book myself, but it has been been recommended to me and appears to be a good resource for those looking for information on how best to help their dogs with cancer.

Herbal Medicine, Healing & Cancer by herbalist Donald Yance. Apparently recommended by some holistic veterinarians. It includes information on herbs to help with chemotherapy and other conventional treatments, as well as alternative treatments for various forms of cancer.

The Dog Cancer Survival Guide by Dr. Demian Dressler, veterinary cancer specialist, with Dr. Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology). I have not read this book but enjoy Dr. Dressler's Dog Cancer Blog. This book covers traditional and alternative treatments, and gives advice on coping with a cancer diagnosis. The author also developed a supplement for dogs with cancer called Apocaps (also available from Amazon).

If your pet does not want to eat, try Dr. Goldstein's Radiation Cocktail .

See Email Lists and Message Boards under Cancer for support groups and more information on dogs with cancer.

See Also:

Clinical Trials:

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I regret that I no longer have much time to respond to questions. See my Contact page for more information. My name is Mary Straus and you can email me at either or


Rocky is a Yorkie-Poodle mix who had suffered from digestive problems his whole life. Click on his image to read about the diet his owner finally found to help him.
Pashoshe Fisher, a Chihuahua, was a wonderful, joyful companion to his owner for 19 & a half years. He was on a high quality raw diet for over half his life.
This is Ella, my Norwich Terrier.