The Best Diet for Dogs with Illness

He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog.
You are his life, his love, his leader.
He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart.
You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.


This page answers common questions regarding diets for dogs with canine illnesses.

Why do dogs with illness need a special diet?

Dogs with health issues need a special diet because when they’re sick, their immune system is weak. Just like it is with humans.

And every day your dog’s sick, their immune system grows weaker. Making it worse, some of the aggressive therapies may strain their system further. All this makes it harder for them to recover.

Plus during therapy, their bodies must build new tissue. If they don’t receive the nutrients they need to build more, they’ll use up their already short supply of proteins and cell membrane compounds (omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids) in the process.

What happens when they don’t have the right diet?

When your dog has health issues and their body doesn’t have enough of the right proteins and fats, their body will rob the nutrients from other areas of their body. This could lead to:

  • Muscle wasting away (atrophy)
  • Severely weakened kidneys
  • Liver complications

That’s why it’s critical dogs receive the right supply of quality proteins and cell membrane compounds from their diet.

When your dog eats a tissue-building diet and takes K9 Immunity™ products with K9 Transfer Factor™, you’re giving your canine friend the best fighting chance possible.

Worst foods for dogs with health issues

The first rule for feeding a dog with health issues is STAY AWAY FROM GRAINS! Dogs are not naturally grain-eaters. Over the past 10 million years, dogs evolved mainly as meat-eaters.

Have you ever seen a dog grazing out in a grassy field? That’s because grains are stressful on their digestive system. Unfortunately, most commercial dog foods (even the expensive ones) include rice, wheat or corn.

Check the label
Make sure the first ingredient on your dog food label is some type of protein. You will almost always find some grains listed because they’re an inexpensive filler. Be sure the grains are listed far down the ingredient list.

The lower it is on the list, the smaller the amount it contains in comparison to other ingredients that appear higher on the list.

Although all grains are bad, sorghum is a better filler than corn. Corn is better than rice or wheat.

Important foods for dogs with health problems

Animal protein
If your canine patient is eating a dry commercial dog food, we suggest adding more animal protein such as:

  • Canned sardines (best)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Eggs
  • Hamburger
  • Ground turkey
  • Chicken

NOTE: Consult your veterinarian to make sure your dog is healthy enough for a high protein, high fat diet (especially for those suffering from pancreas, liver, kidney, or spleen issues).

High fat content is good. Some veterinarians advocate a raw diet, while some say it should be cooked. More important than cooked or raw is the amount of animal-based protein and fats. Keep in mind, dogs are primarily carnivores. They do best on the diet they were born to eat.

Fish oil
Fish oil is a good source of illness-fighting Omega 3, 6 and 9. These fatty acids are well-studied to help shrink tumors, lower inflammation and provide a host of other health benefits.

When fighting health issues, we recommend your dog take 1000mg of quality fish oil daily for every 20 pounds of dog.

A 60-pound dog needs 3000mg of fish oil daily. (60lbs/20lbs = 3 x 1000mg = 3000mg)

Note: If your dog doesn’t like taking the fish oil capsule, cut open the soft gel capsule and let your dog smell it first. Dogs love the fishy smell. From that point forward, they’ll look forward to taking their fish oil supplement.

Flax seed oil
Some people like to use flax seed oil instead of fish oil. Flax seed oil is a good substitute, but dogs rarely eat flax seed oil by itself. So you’ll need to mix it in with something. If your dog still won’t take it then, it’s best to use fish oil.

K9 Omega™ is formulated with the purity and quality needed for dogs with health issues. If you choose another fish oil supplement, choose a lower-priced one. These tend to contain fewer additives, so you’re not adding to your dog’s toxic load.

Recommended dog food brands for dogs with health problems

For most commercial dog foods, the difference in quality depends on the type of grain filler they use. Our scientists tested many different grain-free dog foods and found the brand Taste of the Wild is one of the better formulas.

With healthier dog food, you may notice your dog eating less. That’s because the food contains less filler and more proteins and fats.

Even on a high-quality dog food, you can supplement with additional animal proteins and fats. Higher proteins and fats with lower carbohydrates is the most beneficial diet for dog patients.

When searching for dog food, keep in mind:

  • Grain-free is best
  • At least the first two ingredients are some type of meat
  • NEVER choose a food where the first ingredient is corn meal, rice, or wheat

NOTE: Consult your veterinarian to make sure your dog is healthy enough for a high protein, high fat diet (especially for those suffering from pancreas, liver, kidney, or spleen issues).

The recommended dog diet

Most canine patients do best on a grain-free commercial dog food combined with a partially cooked or raw food diet. Dogs have high stomach acid levels, so they’re not susceptible to food bacteria like humans are. So a raw diet benefits dogs. Their stomach acid also allows them to digest bone.

If you are concerned with how your dog will react with a raw diet, start with rare-cooked meat and slowly wean them to raw.

The raw food diet (or BARF diet – Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods) should consist of 75% meat and 25% fruit and/or vegetables.

BARF diet ingredients:

Raw bones – avoid cooked/smoked bones because they splinter

Meat – chunked or ground (beef, lamb, chicken, pork, etc.)

Offal – liver, kidneys, heart, unbleached green tripe (can be purchased in a can at your local gourmet pet food store)

Vegetables – such as: broccoli, spinach, celery, bok choy, carrot, capsicum

Fruit – such as: whole apple (remove seeds), whole pear, whole grapefruit, whole orange

Other foods – whole egg, flax seed, kelp, alfalfa, kefir


If your dog doesn’t care for fruit or vegetables, mix them with yogurt or cottage cheese.

Recipe for dogs with health issues

(equals a week of raw meat patties for a 50-pound active dog)

4 lbs. ground meat (can be a combination like chicken and beef)
2 cups raw goat milk or 1 cup yogurt or cottage cheese
3 raw eggs
1 apple (remove seeds)
2 carrots
1.5 pound mixed vegetables (such as sweet potato, broccoli, zucchini, kale, spinach)

Mix all ingredients in a food processor. Make into patties and freeze. Feed according to your dog’s appetite. Each day, dogs typically eat 2% of their body weight. But more active or dogs with a high metabolism may require 3-4%.

It is a good idea to give the raw diet in the morning and some dry, grain-free kibble in the evening.
You can also be creative and give chunked meat along with a mix of fruit, vegetables or yogurt. Change is good to ensure a variety of nutrients.

For more information (along with detailed ingredient information) visit: or search the web for BARF diets.

Other recommended dietary supplements to enhance chemotherapy:

Always ask your veterinarian and/or oncologist before giving your dog supplements.


NOTE: While antioxidants enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs, they may interfere with others. If your dog is on chemotherapy, ask your oncologist if you should discontinue these supplements while your dog is undergoing chemotherapy.

Old protocol stated you should stop antioxidants 3 days before chemotherapy or radiation and resume it 1 week after treatment is completed. For the latest information, consult your oncologist.

Dogs naturally produce their own Vitamin C. Do not add additional Vitamin C to your dog’s diet unless specifically recommended by your veterinarian.

Membrane stabilizers
These include omega-3-fatty acids, gamma-linolenic acid and coenzyme Q10.

These are immunity-boosting supplements and should be used in all canine patients. They’re also ideal for healthy dogs to help prevent illness or other serious illnesses.

Optional immune-boosting supplements

These supplements may support your dog’s immune system.
Echinacea – This plant is an immune-system booster. You can find Echinacea in health food stores in several forms: tablets, tinctures, capsules, and extracts of dried or fresh roots. Follow adult dosing directions.

Astragalus – This comes from the root of the plant, Astragalus membranaceus. It has been used in China to fight respiratory infections including colds and flu. Studies in the west confirm its immune-boosting and antiviral properties. Follow adult dosing directions

Other purported anti-illness herbs

Always ask your veterinarian and/or oncologist before giving your dog supplements.

Cat’s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa) – Comes from Peru and was used to treat many things. Studies confirm it contains antioxidants and immune-enhancing properties. For small dogs, use a quarter of the adult dosage and for medium dogs use half of the adult dosage.

Pau D’Arco – This herb is extracted from the bark of the Tahebuia genus tree in South America. It contains lapachol and other phytochemicals, which produce amazing results. For small dogs, use a quarter of the adult dosage and for medium dogs use half.

Other dietary supplements

Always ask your veterinarian and/or oncologist before giving your dog supplements.

Milk Thistle – It can protect the liver. Suggested daily dosage is 250mg for a dog under 25 pounds, and 500mg for a dog over 25 pounds.

Shark Cartilage – This contains anti-angiogenic properties. If approved by your veterinarian or oncologist, use 1000-2000mg of shark cartilage daily.

Spirulina and chlorella – These super foods provide protein, vitamins and minerals.

Additional dog diet resources

As you can imagine, information about dog diets change daily as new discoveries are made.

For more specific details, we recommend reading Dr. Messonnier’s book, Preventing and Treating Illness in Dogs, chapter 7.

Other alternative health therapies

Acupuncture can relieve pain without the side effects of drugs. It can stabilize the function of the adrenal gland and increase endogenous corticosteroid secretion without the side effects of steroids. Electrical acupuncture can improve muscle strength and reflex activity. It can help relieve muscle spasms after operations. Acupuncture is usually a process of several treatments. If you don’t notice results within 3-5 treatments, you may want to discontinue treatment. Your veterinarian could refer you to a veterinary acupuncturist.

Static Magnetic Therapy
North pole magnets create alkalinity by decreasing hydrogen ion concentration in tissue. They suppress cell mitosis, viral/bacterial growth, tumors and inflammation. Apply a north pole magnet over the tumor area for 15-20 minutes a day. Medical magnets should be 1000-3000 gauss.

Healing Touch
Some believe that “life force” and “energy” can be transferred to a patient through touch and this will cause healing benefits. No spiritual belief is necessary and we believe when you touch your pet with love (such as petting or stroking), no harm can be done. Some studies show touch can reduce the patient’s stress and blood pressure. It is not easy to demonstrate the results of healing touch. Petting your sick dog is good therapy for both of you. They need a lot of love and attention at this time, as do you.

IMPORTANT: Illnesses are very serious. The information provided here is intended for educational use and is not intended to substitute for the advice of a professional. This page is not intended as an endorsement of any product. You should discuss all forms of treatment with your veterinarian and /or oncologist.