Can a bad diet like human junk food cause brain tumors in dogs?

Ever wonder why brain tumors are so common in dogs?

According to a veterinarian whom I consulted for this article, it’s possible that a poor diet can be part of the multifactorial process leading to increased brain tumor risk in dogs.

My parents’ dog, a German shepherd, was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age eight years, 10 months.

My thoughts: I just knew it; I knew what they were feeding him all the time would eventually cause something like this.

One of the diagnosing veterinary neurologist’s assistants told us, “There was nothing you could have possibly done to prevent the tumor,” after my mother asked what could have caused it.

Is it remotely possible that a bad diet can cause brain tumors in dogs?

“I believe that certain foods, additives, preservatives, processing agents, etc., can lead to an increase in incidence of cancer in general,” explains Dr. Michel Selmer, DVM, with The Caring Vet in NY.

“I agree with you about your ‘pulling the trigger’ theory,” continues Dr. Selmer.

My “pulling the trigger” theory is from the world of genetic research: Genetics loads the gun, but alas, environment pulls the trigger.

Many dogs out there  are fed a bad diet including certain kinds of “human food”; the vast majority are fed foods, including human, that do NOT mimic the diet that nature designed dogs to live on; yet most dogs age eight years do not have cancer.

I believe that a combination of what my parents fed their German shepherd and “bad genes” led to the brain tumor.

The purebred dog is more likely to develop cancer than are mixed breeds. It’s no secret that some purebreds come from a line of inbreeding.

“You may not realize it, but you and your pet have spent your lives altering your genetic activity,” says Dr. Selmer.

“When you took your first sip of beer or wine, you turned up the volume of your body’s genetic ability to detoxify alcohol. Every summer, when you strive for that perfect tan, you activate the genes that protect your skin.”

Dr. Selmer continues, “Genes are not a fixed set of preprogrammed instructions. Genes are a dynamic, active part of your pet’s life, responding each day to  environment and their diet.

“Diet and environment have the capacity to turn up the volume on some genes and silence others, vastly changing our health.”

I have always warned my mother and brother about the possible harm of feeding the dog certain types of foods, namely processed meats, canned gravies, plus pancakes, waffles, chips, mashed potatoes that came from a box, and French fries.

I never told her or my father (whom I’ve witnessed feeding the beloved dog apple butter on white bread) that these foods could cause cancer, let alone a brain tumor.

Instead, I harped on general health and longevity. My brother kept telling my mother to stop feeding the German shepherd anything with grains, including pasta.

Yes, dogs should not eat grains! Grains suppress the immune system! In addition to the “human food,” our dog was fed standard dog food from a bag, plus doggie “cookies.” Can anyone say PROCESSED?

A second veterinarian (an alternative practitioner) who had begun treating the dog said to us, “If the immune system works, you won’t get cancer.”

Had my parents avoided feeding the dog processed ANYTHING – and that includes “dog food,” would the brain tumor still have developed? Fair question!

That dog was also fed cereal. Many kinds of cereals are high in acrylamide, recognized in 2005 by the FDA to be a carcinogen. Many cereals are loaded with added sugar.

“A little bit won’t hurt him,” was my mother’s mantra regarding processed food.

And I say, “A little bit wouldn’t have helped him, either.”

Think of what dogs in the wild eat, what they’ve eaten for centuries: food in its natural state  —  raw! Dogs are actually omnivores.

Toxins from processed foods and conventionally raised meats (manmade sugars, artificial colors, flavorings, preservatives, carcinogens, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics) accumulate in dogs fed this stuff. The day after you feed your pet junk does not begin at ground zero; it’s an add-on to previous junk feedings!

I’ve never told my parents that I think the dog’s brain tumor could have been prevented, indeed, with a diet absent of processed “human food.”

I suspect that the incidence of brain tumors in dogs would be significantly reduced if dogs were fed raw meat from wild game or grass-fed livestock, and organic vegetables and fruits.

Realize, too, that some “healthy” foods are toxic to dogs, like grapes, raisins, chocolate, onions, mushrooms and macadamia nuts.

Dr. Selmer offers conventional Western plus holistic veterinary medicine, traditional Chinese veterinary medicine including acupuncture and herbal therapy, and integrative medical care for dogs and cats.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.