What to Feed a Dog With Cancer

Cancer seems to affect a lot of lives and families at some level, in some way, these days. As painful as it is to watch a loved one suffer through this devastating, difficult disease and its draining treatment approach, it can be equally hard to see one of your beloved pets fight the cancer battle.

When your dog has cancer and his body doesn’t have the proper proteins and fats, vital nutrients will be sapped from other areas of that body. This will lead to dramatic and visible muscle atrophy and body weakness, and could also lead to additional diseases – such as liver complications and severely weakened kidneys.  

These are clearly difficult times for your pet. Find out what to feed a dog with cancer – especially what to feed a dog with cancer and no appetite, below.

What to Feed a Dog with Cancer

Simply put, dogs with cancer require a special diet. Their immune system has been weakened by the disease and can grow weaker by the day. Just like in humans, more aggressive cancer therapies can strain their system further. Additionally, during therapy, their bodies need to build new tissue. If they fail to receive the nutrients required to build more, they’ll also use up their dwindling supply of proteins and cell membrane compounds (such as Omega 3, Omega 6 and Omega 9 fatty acids).

What NOT to Feed Your Sick Dog

Dog with cancer

First off, it’s vital to realize what NOT to feed a dog with cancer. Above all else, avoid grain-based foods. Grains are stressful on your dog’s digestive system to begin with, even though many commercial dog foods include rice, wheat, or corn.

Examine dog food labels closely, and look for proteins listed up front. You’re not likely to find too many foods entirely free of grains, but the fewer (and the further down the ingredient list they are) the grains, the better for your sick dog. Though far from ideal, corn is better for your dog than rice or wheat.

Power Up with Protein

What to feed a dog with cancer, then? Now that you know what to avoid, take a moment to learn what will best boost your dog’s flagging immune system during these difficult times. Adding additional animal protein to your dog’s diet can be a very smart and effective tactic. Such proteins can include canned sardines, hamburger, ground turkey, chicken, cottage cheese, and eggs. Some veterinarians champion a raw diet, while others say the meat-based protein should be cooked first. Fish oil is also a strong source of cancer-fighting Omega 3, Omega 6, and Omega 9. These fatty acids have been proven to help reduce tumors and lower inflammation in dogs. If feeding your dog fish oil via capsules proves difficult or impossible, try cutting open the capsule and letting him sniff it first. Dogs tend to love the natural smell of fish.

Please note that it is best to consult with your veterinarian to make sure your dog is, in fact, still healthy enough for a high-fat, high-protein diet. This is particularly important if your dog has canine pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, or cancer in the kidneys.

Tips to Help Your Dog Eat

Dog with cancer

What’s a bit trickier here is to determine what to feed a dog with cancer and no appetite. Thankfully, there are a handful of tips you can try to get your sick dog to eat more than he may initially want to.

One thing you can try immediately is to avoiding mixing any medications with food or water. This may take some experimenting, and some medications may be required with food. If they are not required to be taken with food, don’t mix the two, and try not to medicate immediately before or after a meal. The less your dog associates feeding time with “time to take your medicine,” the better.

You can also try increasing the freshness, moisture, and smell of your dog’s food. Try switching from dry food to a canned food, then warming that canned food to body temperature. Also, try offering several small meals a day to assure the food stays fresh – and your dog retains his appetite.

You can also help ease the eating process for your sick dog by making sure the food bowls are as easily accessible as possible – maybe even placing several bowls around the house. Also, do your best to avoid feeding your dog when he appears nauseous. Signs of nausea include spitting out food, and turning away or drooling at the mere sight of food.  

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