Fighting dog cancer with food

January 19th, 2017
Fighting dog cancer with food

Experts have not yet found a miracle diet to fight cancer, but Carrol Baker shares some nutrition advice from experts around the world to give your dog its best fighting chance against the disease, fighting dog cancer with food.

There’s no other news that can bring such fear and disbelief as learning your faithful canine companion has cancer. If your dog has been diagnosed with this deadly disease, don’t lose heart.

In the past decade, scientific breakthroughs have led to a greater understanding of cancer and today, more treatment options are available for your pet. Your best defence against cancer is to find out as much as you can about it, try to stay positive and work together with your dogs healthcare team to fight the disease.

Paying attention to your dogs diet plays a big part in your pets overall treatment plan. The first thing you need to do is ensure that your dog is of a good standard body size, says Dr Amy Lane, resident in veterinary oncology at Murdoch University Veterinary Hospital in Perth, Western Australia.

If your dog is overweight or underweight, you need to work to get it back to a more healthy body weight range in the initial stages, this is critical, Lane tells Dogs Life.

Cancer-fighting diet

Although there is no miracle diet to help your dog battle the disease, there are some basic components in a canines diet that have been proven to give your dog its best fighting chance against cancer.

Dogs Life contacts RM Clemmons, professor of neurology and neurosurgery from the University of Florida in the US, who explains that tumour cells rely heavily on carbohydrates for their energy source. They also rob the body of amino acids. On the other hand, tumour cells cannot utilise lipids (fats) for energy, while the rest of the body can, and as such, diets with increased fat content may slow tumour growth, allowing the patient to fight against it, he says. Protein content must be maintained at levels sufficient for tissue repair, but carbohydrates should be held to a minimum.

Here in Australia, experts agree a diet high in protein and fat with low carbohydrates is the key. Lane recommends a diet made up of 60 per cent protein, 30 per cent fat and 10 per cent carbohydrates. If you are preparing your dogs diet at home, it ideally should comprise red meats, chicken, turkey, vegetables and a little rice, she says.

With a diet low in carbohydrates, some dogs may have trouble going to the toilet. If a dog has difficulty passing faeces, I recommend adding fibre in the form of fibrous vegetables, such as pumpkin, unprocessed bran or psyllium husks, she says.

Lane also suggests adding fish oil to your dogs diet around 1000mg per five kilos of body weight. Fish oils help the body to reduce inflammation, and cancer certainly is associated with inflammation, she adds.

If your dog is elderly (cancer often strikes more senior dogs), you also need to make sure raw meaty bones or dental chews are included as part of their diet, Lane says.

Go natural

Animal naturopath Julie Massoni agrees there are no quick fixes, just a sensible approach to diet. The best diet you can give your dog suffering from cancer is to feed it 100 per cent raw food. You should aim to base your dogs diet as close to nature as possible to replicate what dogs ate in the wild. This means no processed food whatsoever, she says.

When a dog has cancer, you need reduce the consumption of beef in its diet, Massoni says, suggesting organic chicken, rabbit, turkey, lamb and kangaroo meat. Its also important the meat be preservative-free. Include in the diet offal, raw bones, and fruit and vegetables to add fibre, vitamins and minerals. The vegetables need to be finely processed, because dogs don’t have the capacity to break down vegetable fibre.

So what about a vegetarian diet for dogs with cancer? Dogs are meant to eat meat. While there is evidence to support a vegan or vegetarian diet can benefit humans with cancer, the same does not hold true for canines, Massoni says. With your dogs cancer treatment plan, Massoni also recommends essiac tea a blend of herbs containing burdock root, sheep sorrel, slippery elm and Indian or Turkish rhubarb root.

These have been shown to benefit various types of cancers in humans and animals. They cleanse the blood and detoxify the liver. By reversing toxicity in the body, you are assisting the bodys healing function, she says.

The power of antioxidants

Antioxidants are another key element in helping your dog fight against cancer. They work by neutralising highly reactive, destructive compounds called free radicals. The healthier your dog, the more its body is able to fight the invasive cancer cells. According to Professor Pat Kendall, a food science and human nutrition specialist from Colorado State University, USA, the body’s natural defence systems often neutralise free radicals that develop, rendering them harmless.

But environmental assaults, such as UV radiation and pollutants, can overpower the body’s ability to neutralise free radicals, allowing them to cause damage to the structure and function of the body’s cells, Kendall tells Dogs Life. Kendall says there are 4000 compounds in foods that act as antioxidants, with the most powerful being vitamins C and E, beta-carotine and selenium. Good sources include:

  • Vitamin C: Broccoli, green leafy vegetables, strawberries, raw cabbage and potatoes.
  • Vitamin E: Green leafy vegetables, vegetable oil and fish-liver oil.
  • Beta-carotene: Carrots, pumpkin, broccoli, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.
  • Selenium: Fish, shellfish, red meat, eggs, chicken and garlic.

Antioxidants are also found in ginkgo, grape-seed extract, green tea and many other herbs. Your dogs cancer-fighting arsenal should also include:

  • Kyloic liquid aged garlic: A garlic extract that is gentle to the stomach and helps to strengthen your dogs immune system
  • Colostrum powder: Derived from the milking of cows after calving, it is nutrient rich and benefits the dogs immune system.
  • Liquid stabilised oxygen: Provides additional oxygen to promote healing. Available in a liquid form, it increases oxygen levels in the body and improves the bodys vitality.
  • Flaxseed oil: Derived from the seeds of the flax plant. When it is blended with cottage cheese, it enhances the healing effect. The flaxseed oil needs to be kept refrigerated.
  • Shark cartilage: Very beneficial when added to a dogs diet, especially for a dog with bone cancer.

Helpful herbs

Herbs can also play a vital role in your dogs cancer treatment plan, Massoni tells Dogs Life. They enhance the health of the body and help it to detoxify, which in turn can help to improve the cancers, she says.

As with any illness, you need to ensure that your dog is drinking sufficient fluids. If your dog is vomiting and has diarrhoea, dehydration may result.

Debra Eldredge and Margaret Bonham, authors of Cancer and Your Pet, suggest a snap skin test as the best way to determine if your dog is dehydrated.

Gently grasp the skin at the back of the neck, pull up and release. In a healthy, young pet, the skin should snap back quickly. If the dog is dehydrated, the skin will stay there or slowly melt back, the authors write.

If your dog wont eat?

Just like humans, you may find that your dog doesn’t have much of an appetite when its unwell.

Sometimes the chemotherapy drugs given to your dog can result in a loss of appetite. Your vet will offer anti-nausea medication to combat the effects. We find the anti-nausea medication settles their stomach and they’re usually happy to tuck into their food, Lane says.
To help fight cancer, you need to fuel your dogs body with nutrient-rich foods. Lane shares some tips to tempt your dogs tastebuds:

  • The more bland the food, the more it will appeal to your dog if its feeling nauseous.
  • Cooked chicken breast meat with no fat and a little rice added is ideal.
  • Also try cottage cheese its high in protein and another good alternative.
  • Offer your dog food that is still warm the aroma of the food is stronger, and this can stimulate its desire to eat.
  • Try to tempt your dog with foods it has eaten in the past, for example, a favourite treat.
  • Only offer small amounts of food at a time, and if your dog wont eat, take it away and try again at the end of the day.
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