Dogs with cancer need all the nutrients they can get to fight cancer.
Also, some foods are not suitable for dogs with cancer because such foods can promote cancer cell growth.
A healthy suitable canine cancer diet is therefore an integral part of a holistic cancer treatment for dogs.
If you are feeding your dog commercial kibbles bought at a supermarket, you need to switch to a more nutritious, well-balanced cancer diet. You also need to give your dog supplements that can boost immunity and help fight cancer.
Switching Your Dog’s Diet
When switching your dog to a new food, it is important to remember one point. DO NOT make the switch suddenly, otherwise your dog may develop diarrhea, vomiting, bloating, or other gastrointestinal problems.
Any change should be made gradually over a period of two weeks or so.
Start by mixing a bit of the new food with the old one, and increase the amounts of new food little by little.
At the end of the first week, your dog’s food should be half the cancer diet and half the original food.
By the end of the second week, you can make the switch completely, providing that your dog is not experiencing any GI problems.
Canine Cancer Diet Should be Low in Carb and Sugar
So what makes a good canine cancer diet?
As a general rule of thumb, a dog cancer diet should be low in carbohydrates (3 to 13% of total diet).
Carbohydrates come in the form of sugars (simple carbohydrates) or starches (complex carbohydrates).
Cancer cells thrive on simple carbohydrates. They prefer sugars as their main source of fuel. On the other hand, they cannot use proteins or fat so efficiently for energy.
Now, if we look at the labels of many commercial dog foods, we can notice that many such foods have corn or wheat as their first ingredient. These ingredients can easily be turned into simple sugars, feeding the cancer.
That’s one of the reasons why you should avoid commercial dog foods if your dog has cancer. Also avoid feeding your dog high-carb vegetables such as potatoes.
Instead of starchy foods, feed your dog whole grains, such as brown rice and oatmeal.
Canine Cancer Diet Should be Rich in Proteins and Fat
High quality and moderate amounts of digestible proteins (around 25% of total diet) should be included in a diet for dogs with cancer.
Proteins are necessary to help cell rebuild. Protein sources can be lean meat (of chicken, turkey, beef, venison, pork, or duck), and fish.
As mentioned above, cancer cells cannot use fats for energy. So, a canine cancer diet should consist of a high amount of unsaturated fat (55 to 60% of total diet). In particular, Omega-3 fatty acids should be added to a dog’s cancer diet.
Some dogs who are prone to pancreatitis may not be able to tolerate a high fat diet. In that case, try to decrease the fat content to 45-50% and see how the dog responds.
Omega-3 fatty acids boost the immune system. They are also needed to offset excess levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which suppress the immune system and have been proven to cause cancer to grow faster.
Omega-6 is found in corn, corn oil, and grain-fed meats – all commonly found in commercial dog foods. That’s another reason for NOT feeding a dog with cancer such foods.
In addition, omega-3 fatty acids protect dog cancer patients against cancer cachexia (weight loss and muscle atrophy caused by cancer).
How About Vegetables?
A bit of cooked vegetables can be added to a canine cancer diet to add bulk as well as to provide additional vitamins and minerals to the dog.
Good vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, shiitake mushrooms, cabbage, and red and yellow bell peppers. To help with digestion, you may want to steam and puree the vegetables before giving them to your dog.
Supplementing the Canine Cancer Diet
As mentioned in our page on Complementary Cancer Treatment for Dog Patients, supplements are extremely important to help a dog with cancer.
Supplement your dog’s cancer diet with the following:
Digestive enzymes help the body break down food for easy absorption. Dogs do not have digestive enzymes to break down certain foods such as vegetables, fruit, and plant material.
Supplementation of digestive enzymes is important especially for a dog with cancer so that he can get as much nutrients as possible from his food.
Also, if you give digestive enzymes in between meals, you are helping to lessen the burden of the dog’s pancreas. Why? Because the pancreas can store up the enzymes, so it doesn’t have to work hard producing them.
Vitamins such as vitamins A, C, and E are antioxidants and they can also boost the immune system.
Dogs with cancer may have a poor appetite and as such may not be able to get from their food all the vitamins necessary to help them fight cancer. Supplementation with multiple vitamins is therefore essential for dogs with cancer.