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Nutrition Nuggets
Your dog's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your dog, how much food to feed, and the differences in dog foods, so your dog gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Dog Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of dog nutrition.

Nutrition for the Canine Cancer Patient

September 07, 2012 / (2) comments

Low in carbohydrates: The simple sugars that are present in many carbohydrate sources are a preferred energy source for cancerous cells. Dogs, on the other hand, can get their calories from fats and proteins.

High in quality proteins: Dogs with cancer often suffer from a severe loss of both muscle and fat, a condition that goes by the name cachexia. Eating a lot of high quality protein can help combat cachexia. The amino acid arginine also plays an important role in the ability of the immune system to do battle against cancerous cells.

High in fat: Fats are the most calorie-rich ingredients that can be included in a dog’s diet and also help make food taste good. If a dog’s appetite is not all that it once was, maximizing the palatability of a food and the caloric content of every bite is very important. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids can also help a dog’s immune system fight cancer. Fish oil and flax seed oil are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

It is important to remember that even the best "cancer diet" will not do a dog any good if he won’t eat it. To encourage your dog to keep eating:

  • Do not mix medications with food as they often have an unpleasant taste and/or smell. If you need to hide pills in a treat, use something completely different in taste and texture from the main source of his nutrition. Switching to an injectable form of your dog’s medication may also be a possibility.
  • Keep meal times positive. Do not do anything that might be unpleasant for your dog, such as changing a bandage, while he is eating.
  • Try warming your dog’s food slightly. This can enhance its smell and palatability.
  • Try canned rather than dry food. Many dogs prefer canned formulations to kibble.
  • Feed several small meals throughout the day.

If your dog simply won’t switch to a diet ideally designed for cancer patients, talk to your veterinarian about whether you should add anti-oxidants, fish oil, or other supplements to the food that he will eat.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Snuffie eats Five Guys by Brian Ambrozy / via Flickr

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Comments  2

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  • Mealtime
    09/07/2012 07:02am

    "even the best "cancer diet" will not do a dog any good if he won’t eat it."

    So true! My personal philosophy is that I'd rather have my critter eat the wrong thing than no-thing.

    I also really like the suggestion of using injectable medication when possible because you know for sure the medication got into the critter and lessens the possibility of stomach upset.

  • Avoid Dry Foods, Kibble
    09/09/2012 09:51am

    In: "A Holistic Approach for the Treatment of Cancer", Dr. Joe Demers states:

    "In simple terms, the best diet [for cancer patients] is; low carbohydrates, moderate fats, and high quality proteins. Whole food diets are best. I recommend adding lightly cooked proteins and vegetables to the present diet of my canine patients. For felines, I recommend adding lightly cooked proteins to the diet. Try to discontinue dry food altogether, because of the high grain base and the drying quality of the food. Dryness can contribute to the internal disease process from a Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) point of view."

    Citation: A Holistic Approach for the Treatment of Cancer, Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, January 2005, 23(4): 31-39. http://cavalierhealth.org/images/holistic_approach_demers_ahvma_jan05.pdf

    I think that avoiding dry food -- kibble -- is excellent advice not just for cancer patients, but also for all dogs and cats to avoid cancer.




Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.