Finding the best diet for a dog with cancer is as important as finding the best treatment for the actual disease.

Nutrition is important at every stage of a dog’s life. When your canine companion becomes ill, whether chronically or terminally, a stepped-up dietary support plan becomes critical to ultimate survival as well as quality of life along the way. 

Cancer in dogs is one of today’s leading causes of canine deaths. Fortunately, much of conventional medicine is “discovering” the beneficial effects of herbal supplementation as the more holistic approach to treatment. When these ongoing advances in supportive care are combined with the correct diet, many dogs are able to enjoy a relatively good level of health for months or even years beyond the diagnosis. 

Dog cancer takes its toll

Many forms of cancer take a huge toll on the body’s resources and will often result in muscle wasting or cachexia. Inadequate nutrition may result secondary to cancerous cells utilizing these important calories. This leaves insufficient nutrient energy stores for the dog’s normal cells. When this occurs dogs can

  • Become lethargic
  • Lose weight
  • Become unable to enjoy a satisfactory quality of life

Many dogs also have a decreased appetite or nausea associated with either the cancer or the chemical medications. This increases the challenge of providing adequate nutrients.      

Best choices for dog cancer diets

Research into the best diet for a dog with cancer is ongoing, but some commonly suggested improvements to the diet include offering a

  • lower carbohydrate diet
  • grain-free diet
  • raw-food diet
  • dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids
  • preparing an at-home diet
  • herbal supplementation with Functional Food DropsTM

There are several commercial diets offering grain free and low carbohydrate options. Even large, well-known companies such as Science Diet and Purina offer grain free varieties. This contradicts their decades of bad science promoting low cost grain-based protein as a substitute for the kind of food a dog can actually utilize … like meat.

There are also several raw-food diets commercially available including the RAW diet. One big concern regarding raw food diets is the risk of Salmonella or other bacterial growth due to inappropriate preparation and/or sanitation.

This risk applies not only to the animals being offered the food, but also to the caregivers providing the food and other humans in the household especially younger children. Given that dogs on chemo therapy for cancer often have dangerously compromised immune systems because of the chemo, lessening any risk of additional bacterial exposure is essential. 

Include Omega Fatty Acids in all canine cancer diets

The addition of a supplemental omega fatty acid combination can be achieved either through using commercially available food that already has this added or by providing a fatty acid dietary supplement. There are many varieties available through veterinarians and pet supply stores.  

Additional potential benefits to adding omega fatty acids to your pet’s diet include healthier coats and skin, reduced joint pain and inflammation, and maybe even an extended lifespan.

The veterinary products often come with a recommended dosage. A typical dosage is approximately 800 to1200 mg for larger dogs or 250 to 500 mg for smaller dogs two to three times weekly. Side effects from too much omega fatty acids are primarily gastrointestinal and can manifest as gas or diarrhea. Starting with a low dosage and gradually increasing the amount offered to the dog while monitoring for these side effects can help lessen this risk.

The thrifty dog lover can simply buy a reasonably priced bottle of fish oil capsules (for humans) with combined omegas 3, 6 and 9. Give approximately 250 mg per 10 lbs. of body weight per day. Cutting open the capsules and dripping the rich oil onto his food exposes all those delightful dead fish aromas that excite your dog’s appetite. Yum!

What about home-cooked?     

Many owners choose to offer their dogs home prepared meals. Supplementing their regular diet with meals that are easy on their stomach, such as chicken and rice, is often suggested during times of gastrointestinal distress secondary to cancer treatments.

Caution must be taken to make sure meals given long-term include all nutrients, including daily essential multi-herbal nutrients for dogs, in addition to being palatable. Diets that do not include all necessary nutrients may place the animal at risk for nutritional disease at a time when nutrients need to be maximized.

Currently there is no real evidence in conventional medicine showing that dogs with cancer have significantly different nutritional requirements for protein, fat, or any other specific nutrient than healthy dogs. Special circumstances can arise when the cancer or cancer treatment affects a specific organ, such as the kidneys or liver, which may result in a change in protein or fat levels.

Diets being offered routinely should be, at a bare minimum, complete and balanced as defined by the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials). Tackling the art and science of preparing meals that provide all necessary vital nutrients is challenging. Many homemade diets fail to achieve complete inclusion of all the required vitamins and minerals. The AAVN (American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition) provides several references for boarded veterinary nutritionists that can evaluate and help assure homemade diets are complete.

Optimize metabolic function and support the immune system

Most experts agree that diets for dogs battling chronic illness should be formulated to optimize metabolic function and support the immune system, especially if the animal is experiencing adverse effects secondary to cancer treatments. Ideally the canine cancer patient will eat a diet well formulated for their specific needs; however, the meals must be palatable to the dog. In many cases dogs can be offered their regular food for extended periods while undergoing treatment.

Offering special treats is often appropriate to encourage dogs to eat, but owners must be especially cautious when offering items that are high in fat as this may put the animal at risk for pancreatitis. Treats that are high in sugar (or worse, high-fructose corn syrup) tend to feed the cancer and should be avoided. Additionally, if needed, owners may be able to utilize anti-nausea medications and appetite stimulants available from their veterinarian.    

Holistic veterinarians teach us that the best diet for a dog with cancer is free of grains, high in animal protein, low in carbs, phytonutrient rich, and made at home by a dog lover instead of a machine. The one point of agreement shared by holistic vets as well as a growing number of conventional vets is that certain alternative protocols have proven in clinical trials to be measurably helpful. Topping this list of dog cancer adjuncts is (you guessed it) natural herbal nutrient supplementation. 

Current national sales reports reveal that Primalix C-Care® Herbal Extract – Functional Food DropsTM – represent the #1 choice among dog lovers and their holistic veterinarians for the natural treatment of the “Big C” in dogs.

The next most popular choice is the recommended combination of Primalix C-Care® and Primalix Immune® Herbal Extracts. Both remedies are Functional Food DropsTM and are easily added to whatever diet – wet or dry, raw or cooked, home-made or machine made – you ultimately choose for your precious canine companion. Your comments, questions and observations added below would be much appreciated. Warm regards,Gary Le Mon,Herbalist 

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