What Should You Feed a Dog Who Has Cancer?

Seeing your pet battling with cancer is incredibly tough, but there are many ways you can help your pet get through this difficult time. While medical treatment is unquestionably the most effective way of managing cancer, many experts believe that proper nutrition can also play a vital role in fighting the disease. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can help support your dog via the right food choices.

Foods to Avoid

  • High Carb Foods – French, fries, pizza, chips – who could resist such stodgy goodness? Not most dogs, that’s for sure. But if you’re used to treating your dog to a few fries from your plate, or the odd cookie from the jar, now’s the time to stop. We all know the old adage “you are what you eat”, but did you know this principle holds as true for our four-legged friends as it does for humans? Carbs and junk food may taste delicious, but their harmful effect on health is a lot less palatable. Evidence suggests that the simple sugars found in carbohydrates can feed and encourage the growth of cancer cells, whereas a diet high in healthy proteins and fats (which encourage a metabolic state known as Ketosis) may have the opposite effect. With this in mind, high- carb kibble, along with treats such as chips, fries and bread, should be removed from your dog’s diet. Processed foods are also a no-no, so skip the hot dogs, ham, sausages and sandwich meats as much as possible.
  • Raw food – While many pet owners are eager to espouse the benefits of a raw food diet, most experts recommend avoiding raw food if you’re dealing with a sick pet. Cancer compromises the immune system, increasing your dog’s susceptibility to food poisoning. To protect your pet from the harmful pathogens and parasites sometimes present in uncooked food, make sure to heat meat thoroughly before serving.
  • Grains – Grains can be stressful on your dog’s weakened digestive system, so it’s important to avoid grain- based products as much as possible. Most commercial dog foods contain grains, so make sure to read the list of ingredients before buying, and avoid anything with a high percentage of corn, rice or wheat.

So, What Should you be Feeding your Dog?

  • Pack on the Protein – Protein is the number one food choice for dogs with cancer. Protein helps build and repair muscle, and plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy immune system. Canned sardines, ground turkey, beef, chicken, eggs and lamb are all packed with protein, and should be top of the list when it comes to filling your dog’s plate.
  • Healthy Fats – Don’t shy away from fat. Healthy fats, such as those found naturally in meat, are a vital source of calories, while supplementary fats such as flax- seed oils and fish oils are high in immune- boosting Omegas 3, 6 and 9. Bear in mind that some dogs find the taste of flax- seed oil hard to stomach. If your dog is reluctant to take the oil straight-up, try mixing it thoroughly into their food to disguise the taste. If they still refuse it, consider switching to fish oil instead.
  • Stock up on Veggies – Vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, collard greens and cauliflower are bursting with health- given vitamins and minerals, while low- carb fruits such as blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are all packed with disease-fighting antioxidants. Aim to serve up a couple of portions of fruit and veg a day to see a real boost in your dog’s health.

Consider Supplements

Although there’s no substitute for a healthy, balanced diet, some pet owners have reported good success from introducing dietary supplements to their dogs’ diet. For a few supplements worth considering, take a look at the below list.

  • Adaptogens: Adaptogens such as Astragalus and Rehmannia may benefit dogs undergoing chemotherapy by improving immunity and increasing white blood cells.
  • Therapeutic mushrooms: Reishi mushroom extract is a popular choice when it comes to boosting immunity and helping slave off disease.
  • Omega 3 fatty- acids: Omega 3 fatty- acids have a highly beneficial, anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Choose high- quality fish oils from wild fish for the best effects.
  • Echinacea: Echinacea is known as a great immune booster.
  • Astragalus: Used in Chinese medicine for its antiviral properties, Astragalus may help strengthen the immune system and fight secondary respiratory infections.

Remember, Nutrition is Not a Substitute for Medical Treatment

Cancer is very serious disease, and while proper nutrition may help support your dog’s recovery, it’s vital that you seek professional veterinary advice, and follow the recommended treatment plan. If you remember that a good diet is a supplement to medical care, not a substitute for it, you’ll be sure to be doing as much as possible to ensure your pet’s speedy recovery.


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