When a dog is afflicted with cancer, there are many changes in the way the body uses proteins, fats and carbohydrates as an adaptation toward survival. In fact, the body is utilizing its available nutrients to prioritize wound healing and maintaining the immune system. Sometimes however, these metabolic changes become exaggerated or prolonged so as to become more harmful than beneficial to the patient. As a result of these, significant weight loss and muscle wasting may occur rapidly and become difficult or even impossible to reverse.
Therefore, nutritional support of dogs should be started as soon as cancer is detected. For, the metabolic alterations responsible for the development of cancer known as Cachexia usually exist in cancer patients long before their clinical signs appear. An early and correct nutritional management of cancer patients may even prevent the development of Cachexia, and limit its adverse effects, which usually affect the survival of the patient negatively.
Some nutrients are of higher priority than others. Water is the most essential nutrient. Next, a pet requires adequate calories and protein, followed by minerals and vitamins in its daily supplements. Commercial pet foods are balanced so that when a pet eats adequate calories he will also get adequate quantities of all other required nutrients. However, the typical problem encountered in dogs with cancer is reduced food intake, or refusal of pet foods and acceptance only of table foods that lack essential nutrients.
In general, nutritional support for cancer stricken dogs can be in the form of:
- Homemade food: The most important benefit of feeding your dog a home-cooked diet rather than processed food is that he will be eating whole foods. Also, added benefit is that, it is easy to provide variety.
- Variety for life: There isn't any food or combination of foods that you can feed your dog every time he eats, and be confident that you are giving him the best food to fight cancer. Flexibility, variety and rotation are important.
- Balanced nutrients: Dogs food should be supplemented with good amount of Proteins, Fats, Vitamins, Minerals, and Antioxidants like green tea extract and grape seed extract, Probiotics and Omega 3 Fatty acids.
- Exercise: With some specific exceptions, most dogs treated for cancer should be allowed to perform all the activities of enjoyment especially when it comes to exercise. However, it is important to be attentive. If your dog wants to go for a walk, jog or hike then go for it. However, if your pet seems reluctant, more sluggish, or less enthusiastic on a particular day, than you should skip the day's exercise or modify it to accommodate your dog's level of energy. If unexpected lethargy persists, see your veterinarian as soon as possible.
- Don't forget the treats: Most commercially produced dog treats are high in carbohydrates and are not on the approved list of our cancer dog consumption. Still our cancer pups should not be deprived of their yummies. We simply need to be creative in finding treats that are good for our pups fighting cancer. Examples of some treats are:
- Plain organic yogurt
- Cooked turkey or chicken meat (diced)
- Cheese bones: Easy to prepare! Just press a slice of cheese into the end of a hollowed out, marrow-less beef bone.
- Herbal supplements: Herbal supplements that are more suited to your companion dog's taste have an edge over others and may prolong and improve your dog's quality of life.
If in spite of your best efforts at feeding a balanced canine cancer diet, your canine companion still continues to lose weight and refuses to eat, remember to discuss the use of drugs and appetite stimulants with your veterinarian.