Cancer is an unfortunate reality for many dogs and such a diagnosis can pose a lot of questions. On top of treatments, costs and lifestyle changes, owners must also take a long, hard look at their pet’s diet to make sure their pet is getting the proper nutrition needed during treatment and to help fight the disease.
No matter where the cancer in a dog is located, the digestive system is heavily affected. Both the disease itself and treatments can cause a variety of symptoms affecting a dog’s digestion and eating. Some symptoms are lack of appetite, lack of saliva, nausea, vomiting, mouth ulcers, diarrhea and more. This isn’t even counting the havoc it can wreak on the rest of their body.
There is no miracle diet for a dog with cancer, but there are a few ways to adjust their diet to help them fight the disease. There is an abundant of research available and various options that have been successful in providing the best diet for dogs with cancer. The ideal diet for dogs is unique to each pet and should always be monitored by a veterinarian, but let’s discuss a few universal trends that may help aid your pet in their fight.
Cancer latches onto protein from other parts of the body and drains your dog of it. This is also seen in the loss of muscle mass and weight, so one of the main goals should be keeping weight on your pet. This is not simply just adding calories but adding nutrition. Meat is a great source of this protein, but it should be an easily digestible form. Examples of these ideal meats are chicken, fish, turkey, pork and eggs. Beef should always be avoided, as it is very hard to digest, especially for a dog suffering from cancer.
Low Carb, High Fat
Making sure your pet has adequate protein is very important, but so is ensuring your pooch isn’t loading up on carbohydrates. Tumors thrive off of carbohydrates and feeding a high carb diet can help fuel the tumor to grow and expand, causing metastasis. Carbohydrates are also empty calories and don’t have much nutrition. So basically, it feeds the tumor and starves the dog. Research says dogs battling cancer should eat a diet of no more than 25% carbohydrates, which can easily be found on the back of any food bag or can.
Tumors love carbohydrates because they’re easy for the tumor to use as energy. Fat has the opposite effect on tumors and are difficult to use for energy, so should also be incorporated in your pet’s diet. This does not mean load up on treats, because causing your dog to become overweight during treatments can increase their mortality rate, but instead incorporating dog foods with higher fat levels. This can also easily be found on the back of any dog food bag or can.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids & Flax Seed
Omega-3 fatty acids are an example of the good fat mentioned above. These acids are essential healthy fats found in fish and fish oil. They have many benefits such as joint, coat and skin health. Their biggest benefit for dogs with cancer though is the anti-inflammatory nature. Flaxseed, in combination with these acids, allows the body to make good fatty acids and help boost your pet’s immune health during their cancer battle.
On the other hand, cancer cells have a difficult time using fat as an energy source, so foods that are relatively high in fat and low in carbohydrate may benefit dogs with cancer. In addition, higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids may exert an anti- tumor effect. While additional research is needed, it is recommended that dogs suffering from cancer eat a diet of 25-40% DM fat and 5% DM or greater of dietary omega-3 fatty acids.
Coconut oil is worth exploring for a dog with cancer. It is full of medium-chain fatty acids, which can help boost the immune system. Coconut oil has lauric acid, which turns into monolaurin in the body. Monolaurin helps get rid of disease-causing cells that lead to inflammation and stress, which could help in quality-of-life care in regard to cancer. This also helps a dog’s white bloods cells focus on fighting cancer, instead of fighting smaller infections constantly.
Research is still developing on coconut oil as an aid for dogs with cancer, but some have shown that it can be useful. It’s been especially useful to help prevent cancer from developing. Coconut oil has anti-tumor properties and can even clear up pre-cancerous lesions and prevent cancerous growths.
Apples are another thing in your home that are great for your pooch in moderation! Apples are antiangiogenic, which means it prevents new blood vessels from forming from existing ones. During cancer, this is very important as you do not want new blood vessels forming to supply the tumor. Ideally, you want to “starve” a tumor and stop it from growing. Research found that antiangiogenic foods starved tumors with a 60% response rate.
Some things in your pantry now can even help your pup during treatment! Pumpkin is high in beta-carotene, which turns into Vitamin A when digested. Vitamin A has antioxidant properties and prevents damage to cells. These antioxidants can help slow cancer growth and boosts enzymes that help cleanse the body of cancer-causing substances. Pumpkin also helps soothe upset stomach in pups and can help prevent build-up of cancer-causing agents.
Always Consult with a Vet
It is important not to change your dog’s food without consulting a veterinarian during cancer treatments or a cancer diagnosis. So much about your dog’s life is changing at this time and rapidly changing their food can already lead to diarrhea, nausea and more. Certain diets can even cause the cancer to grow, as we discussed. It’s important to make sure your pet’s diet is helping them during treatment as much as possible and not being counterproductive to them. You may be able to find natural dog cancer remedies that actually work, but always consult your veterinarian beforehand.