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Nutrition and diet play a crucial role in cancer patients, and dogs are no exception. After your dog is diagnosed, you should work directly with your oncologist, veterinarian, or integrative vet on what to feed a dog with cancer who won’t eat.
Ensuring your dog is getting enough nutrition is one of the most important tips we can give pet owners. When you’re working on a nutrition plan, the one thing to remember when trying to determine what food to feed a dog with cancer is that it’s more important your dog eats versus trying to feed them the ‘best’ food. Anorexia or ‘cancer cachexia’ is due to the depletion of body fat, which gets broken down at an increased rate.
What is cancer?
The Ultimate Pet Health Guide tells us that cancer takes many forms and affects pets and people in various ways. “Cancer is described as a disease in which cells reproduce inappropriately, leading to tumor formation,” says Gary Richter, DVM.
Types of cancer
There are two types of cancer pet parents should understand before their dog undergoes a biopsy, and receive a diagnosis from the vet.
- Benign: This term can be used in two ways. Benign can be used to describe a noncancerous growth or specific cancerous masses. Benign is often thought of as ‘good.’
- Malignant: These tend to metastasize.
Conventional cancer treatment
Did you know there is a Melanoma vaccine? This is a unique form of chemotherapy and has extended the lifespan of many pets.
Pet parents may discuss various cancer treatments with their vets, including surgery as an option, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and nutrition. The most important goal is to make sure dogs with cancer are eating and maintaining their weight.
Why is diet important when your dog has cancer?
Ensuring your dog’s calorie and nutritional needs are met is the number one priority for dog owners.
There are two main goals when you’re feeding a dog with cancer.
- Provide optimal nutrition to support your dog’s immune system
- Restrict nutrient access by cancer cells
It’s essential to work with your veterinarian or oncologist on a nutrition plan that achieves both these goals. You essentially want to starve cancer. Nourish the dog but not cancer. For a dog with cancer, not eating is typically the largest issue.
What should you feed a dog with cancer?
‘Cancer diets’ for dogs frequently are high protein, moderate to high fat, and low carbohydrate. Certain fats also have the potential to benefit the cancer patient through even more direct cancer-fighting effects.
Pet owners may opt for a home-prepared diet or a kibble designed for dogs with cancer. After years of research, a team from Colorado State worked with Hill’s Science & Technology Center to create a dog food specifically formulated for dogs with cancer called Hill’s Prescription Diet n/d.
What is the safest food to feed my dog?
According to the Whole Dog Journal, a home-prepared diet or dog cancer diet recipes to meet your dog’s dietary requirements may be an option. There are many foods for dogs with cancer that will positively benefit them and should be added to meals.
Pet owners should work directly with their vet or oncologist on a diet, but they may recommend the following:
- Organic foods
- Fresh organic meat, raw or cooked
- Fish-oil supplements
- Vitamin C
- Fresh veggies
- Limited carbs
- Safflower oil
- Digestive enzymes
These are also referred to as superfoods. Your approach to nutrition must be under the guidance of a vet.
What is the best food I can feed my dog?
Dogtime tells us that there are superfoods that may help or prevent cancer in dogs. This isn’t in any particular order.
- Fish Oil: Omega-3 fatty acids can slow the growth of cancer
- Blueberries: A great antioxidant
- Pumpkin: Beta-carotene, which gives pumpkin its orange color, can also slow cancer growth. Canned pumpkin works well and can be added as a topper to meals.
- Apples: An antiangiogenic food that starved tumors with a 60 percent response rate
- Turmeric: Turmeric contains curcumin, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound
Discuss these cancer-fighting foods with your vet.
What shouldn’t I feed my dog if they have cancer?
Diets high in omega-6 fatty acids (found in grain) may increase the rate of cancer progression. You should avoid raw diets. Pets with cancer may be at greater risk due to alterations in their immune systems, and raw diets can be risky.
Top herbal supplements
Many supplements may benefit dogs with cancer. You may decide with a vet’s guidance to try the following herbal supplements.
- Probiotics: Probiotics have a tremendous impact on the immune system
- Mushrooms: Mushrooms contain beta-glucans, which have anti-cancer effects
- Whole-food supplementation: Whole-food supplements provide ‘nutrition above and beyond’ what is possible with diet alone
Pet owners have to make sure their dog isn’t losing weight. When researching the best food for a dog with cancer, it’s important to consult with experts and consider a homemade diet.
The goal is to nourish the dog, not cancer. Always consider your dog’s quality of life and work with your vet to ensure he isn’t in pain.