10 Essential Amino Acids Your Dog with Cancer Needs

The 10 Essential Amino Acids and How They Affect Canine Cancer

In humans, dogs and other animals, protein in foods is the source of building blocks for the body's own proteins — amino acids. A dog's body uses 20 different amino acids, 10 of which are "essential," meaning they have to come from food.

Most of us are used to thinking of protein as always healthy. It would be natural to assume that when your dog has cancer, more protein would support longer life and better health. But the reality is that some of the 10 essential amino acids help a dog's body fight cancer and one other helps cancer grow and spread.

It's important to give a dog with cancer protein in foods he loves with the right balance of essential amino acids. We'll discuss which amino acids are harmful and which amino acids are helpful in a moment. But first let's get an essential definition out of the way.

What does it mean for an amino acid to be "essential?"

There are 10 amino acids that every dog, whether they have cancer or not, needs to derive from food:

  • Arginine
  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

(Arginine is not an essential amino acid for humans, but dogs cannot make enough for their bodies' needs.) 

There are 10 more amino acids -- alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamine, glutamic acid, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine -- that a dog’s body uses in making its own proteins but can make from the essential amino acids.

Some of the "non-essential" amino acids become "conditionally essential" if a dog's body doesn't get enough of the right essential amino acids to make them. However, as long as your dog is able to eat and you feed your dog poultry, meat and fish and other high-quality sources of protein, making the non-essential and conditionally essential amino acids won't be a problem.

The challenge of canine cancer nutrition is that more is not always better. Let's consider the amino acid that needs to be limited when dogs have cancer.

Arginine stimulates most canine cancers, but there is an important exception to the rule

The amino acid “arginine” is especially abundant in soy and, should your dog happen to eat them, nuts, seeds, and insects. It's also found in significant amounts in meat and dairy.

Your dog's body uses arginine to make other amino acids such as citrulline, glutamine, and proline. As in humans, a dog's body uses arginine to make nitric oxide (NO), which helps blood vessels to relax. Arginine is important in making proteins to help wounds heal, to regulate the immune system, and to power the division of cells to create new tissue. It's that last property that is a problem in cancer.

When a dog's diet is arginine-deficient, healthy tissues don't repair themselves until the arginine in the diet is restored. When a dog is getting chemotherapy to fight cancer, arginine helps the healthy cells that aren't affected by chemotherapy function better. 

Branched-chain amino acids fight most cancers

Branched-chain amino acids have a clear beneficial effect in fighting canine cancer. 

The branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They get their name from their chemical structure, a central carbon atom bound to three other carbon atoms, like branches. A dog's body can use these amino acids to make glucose that fuels every cell. These amino acids can also become ketone bodies that can keep the body going without sugar as fuel.

Leucine, in particular, sends a signal to certain kinds of cancer cells to stop dividing. These cancer cells then undergo apoptosis, which is a kind of cellular suicide. But the anti-cancer effects of branched-chain amino acids are only significant when they are available at high levels in a dog's diet.

What about the other six essential amino acids? A dog that has cancer needs to get more than the minimum of each of these essential amino acids to make sure that healthy tissue isn't broken down to feed cancerous tissue.

Canine Biologics is here to help you give your dog a cancer-fighting diet

The truth is that canine cancer nutrition is a complicated topic. What supports canine health when a dog isn't receiving chemo isn't the same as what supports canine health when a dog is receiving chemo. Amino acids have to be available in amounts that aren't too little and aren't too much, and they need to be in the form of the foods your dog loves to eat.

Canine Biologics provides your dog with human-grade food -- cooked and freeze-dried for freshness – along with special supplements rich in amino acids and wild-caught Alaskan salmon oil. Canine Biologics products offer the right balance and type of protein, fats, and carbs to feed your dog and not their cancer, mixed fresh at every feeding.

We're the world's only company 100% dedicated to creating the best food for dogs with cancer. Let us help you give your dog the nutrition that maximizes their health.