Feeding the Canine Cancer Patientsteve rinker
There are few words a dog owner can hear that cause more pain than “Your dog has cancer.” Your heart breaks hearing those words, and your vet agonizes over having to deliver them.
Now you know, but what do you do? You can take some comfort from the fact that as little as 30 years ago, a diagnosis of cancer was a death sentence for a dog. Today, there are treatments available, and there can be better outcomes. Your job now is to support your dog during, and after, treatment.
Cancer and Diet
As your dog’s caregiver, one of the most important things you can do is make sure that he or she has a diet that delivers weapons that will be needed to battle the cancer. There is much research being conducted on which supplements are most effective, and what type of diet is most beneficial.
This is a condition that affects the dog’s metabolism. Cachexia causes loss of appetite, weight loss, immune suppression and fatigue. It is challenging, because in many cases, the cachexia and not the cancer itself, is the cause of death.
Your dog needs protein. Unfortunately, so does the cancer. The dog and the cancer essentially end up fighting for the available protein. The dog can develop muscle wasting and have trouble healing. It’s important to feed a high-protein food so that the dog can fight the cancer.
Cancer thrives on carbohydrates, like bread or pasta. You want to minimize the carbohydrates available to the dog – essentially, you want to feed the dog, not the tumor. For this reason, you should choose foods that are low in carbs.
You may have heard the “old wives’ tales” as they relate to humans. Essentially, what they say is that fat people die more slowly from cancer, because the cancer has less to eat. Oddly enough, there is some basis in truth for this belief. Dogs who have a suppressed appetite due to cancer use up fat stores rapidly, but fat stores allow for short-term fasts when the dog is feeling less like eating. Adding omega fatty acids to the dog’s diet can help prevent weight loss.
Your veterinarian may recommend dietary supplements for a dog who is suffering from cancer. It is important that you understand that this is a palliative method – there is no such thing as a supplement that will cure cancer in your dog, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. However, it is believed that some supplements may help to retard tumor growth.
Choosing the Right Food
When you’re choosing a food for a dog who has cancer, you want to be sure that it’s very palatable, and contains a lot of calories. Ideally, most of the calories will come from a good protein source and from fat (about 30%-50% each). The remainder can come from carbs. Your vet can advise you about special foods that are developed for dogs that are being treated for cancer. They may not be immediately in stock, but your vet can order them for you.
You may also want to consider supplements. Again, you’ll want to talk with your vet in order to be sure that the supplements you’re considering won’t interact adversely with the cancer mediations. Of course, keep an eye on your dog’s weight.
There is no such thing as a food or supplement that will prevent cancer. Some breeds are especially prone to cancer, and if there’s a breed that you love, you may have to accept that at some point you will lose your pet, and it will likely be to cancer. With proper nutrition, though, you can try to stave off cancer and treat it as effectively as possible if it does occur.