Cancer and raw dog food

Today I’m sharing some bad news with you guys. Unfortunately, it looks like the nasty C has found its way back into our lives in form of a mast cell tumor on my dog Missy’s throat.

For those of you who don’t know – my Boxer mix Missy was first diagnosed with cancer in late 2014, at only 3 years of youth. Back then, she had a similar tumor removed and underwent 4 rounds of preventative chemotherapy treatment, for the grand total of $7,689.20.

Our medical illness insurance through Pets Best ended up covering $6,177.18. As the monthly insurance rate has since then climbed from $76 to $185, I just recently scratched the illness protection from our insurance plan (go figure) and only kept accident coverage, which is an affordable $20 per month.

How I found out about my dog’s cancer

A few days ago, I took Missy to our regular vet for an exam to have 2 lumps checked out. One is on the right side of her throat where the first tumor was located. The other one is on the left side of her face, right below her left ear.

Buzz and Missy, two raw fed boxer mixes

Our vet Dr. Schaller first looked at the one located on her face and was confident when stating that she could take it off at her practice, but the expression on her face immediately changed when she felt the lump on Missy’s throat.

It appears to be a grade II mast cell tumor. Those grow below the skin in the subcutaneous tissues.

Referral to oncologist

Our vet explained she would have to refer us back to the Veterinary Specialty Hospital (VSH) in Cary, N.C., where Missy had been treated in late 2014/early 2015. She gave Missy a heartfelt kiss on her cute little head. Gulp.

After Dr. Schaller made the referral to the VSH, I called to make an appointment with one of their oncologists. Missy will be examined Monday afternoon (the day this blog post goes live) and given a prognosis. We’ll take it from there, and I’ll keep you guys updated on our new cancer journey. Paws crossed for somewhat good news.

Cancer and raw dog food – Cancer busted my bubble

Now what does all of this have to do with raw feeding? Well, Missy’s first cancer diagnosis got me started on our raw feeding journey. Until then, her and her brother Buzz had been on a kibble/wet food diet, essentially for the first 3 years of their lives.

So while Missy was doing a great job kicking cancer’s butt with the help of the oncologist staff at the VSH, I attempted to understand how a 3 year old dog could possibly come down with cancer.

Cancer and raw dog food - Missy the boxer mix

Missy after her tumor removal surgery

On WeAreTheCure.org, I learned that Boxers are genetically predisposed to having the highest incidence of mast cell tumors, which did, indeed, end up being Missy’s Boxer mom’s death sentence at age 3.

I also heard holistic veterinarians such as Dr. Karen Becker, Dr. Dee Blanco, and the many contributors of Dogs Naturally Magazine say and write that highly processed dog food might be contributing to the canine cancer epidemic.

The benefits of a raw dog food diet

Coincidentally, I kept hearing them talk about an alternative that sounded intriguing to me – a fresh, raw food diet with the following benefits:

  • severely reduced allergy symptoms
  • shiny, full coats
  • white teeth
  • smaller poop
  • less doggie smell
  • strengthened immune system
  • and, what stuck with me the most, a reduced cancer risk.

So while I obviously couldn’t do anything about my little puppy girl being part Boxer, I figured I could at least give this raw food thing a try in order to keep the cancer at bay for as long as possible. Hopefully many, many years.

Over the course of the past 3 years, I was able to notice many of above listed benefits in both pups. Their coats are beautiful and shiny, their teeth are clean without me having to brush them and Buzz no longer has ear infections. Their poop volume has decreased, and they truly don’t have that typical dog smell.

I admit that once the first two yearly complete blood counts showed that Missy (& Buzz) were in great health, I didn’t think that we’d ever be dealing with cancer again.

Well, the nasty C just proved me wrong. While Missy stayed free of mast cell tumors for 3 years, the darn cancer has caught back up with us and busted my bubble, despite feeding a species-appropriate, raw meat diet.

Missy the boxer mix during a chemotherapy session

Missy during a chemotherapy session

Am I going to continue to feed my dogs raw?

You may be wondering whether I’m going to continue to feed raw? You bet.

And every dog who’ll follow in Missy’s (& her brother Buzz’s) paw prints will be fed a fresh, nourishing raw meat diet. That’s a promise you can hold me to. Although, I don’t believe a raw diet can 100% eliminate the cancer threat, especially in dog breeds that are at high risk of being diagnosed with cancer due to their genetics.

I do, however, believe that it contributes tremendously to overall health. It strengthens the canine immune system and ultimately lengthens their life expectancy.

Ask any raw feeder who proudly shows off their raw fed pups on social media and preaches about the many health benefits. Those thousands of people have got to be on to something. Need some inspiration? Just do a hashtag search on Instagram for #RawFeedingCommunity or join a raw feeding Facebook group.

Who knows, maybe Missy’s cancer would have returned a lot sooner than it did had I continued feeding her highly processed, dry dog food. Maybe the raw diet DID buy us 3 additional years with Missy.

Barbara Rivers writes regularly for That Mutt about feeding her two boxer mixes a raw dog food diet. She is a blogger and dog walker and maintains the blog K9s Over Coffee.

Related posts:

When a dear old dog has cancer (my mom’s blog, Nancy’s Point)

Benefits of a raw diet for cats

Homemade raw dog food recipes