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Diets for Dogs with Cancer

If you’re reading this, your dog likely has been diagnosed with cancer, and you are looking for ways to help them through their diet and nutrition. 

At Kabo, we’re passionate about helping pets live healthful, happy lives, and we are so sorry to hear about your dog’s illness. However, there are several ways that diet can help or hurt a dog battling cancer, which is essential to keep in mind. 

If your dog has cancer, you might be unsure if the food you typically give them is enough to support their body as they endure treatment. There are plenty of things that you should know about feeding a dog that has cancer. 

As a responsible pet owner, it’s your job to do the research that could potentially help your dog. However, figuring out where to start could be confusing, especially since there is a plethora of information on the internet. 

That’s why we are here to help you navigate this difficult yet important journey. 

Today, we will provide you with all of the information you need to know about creating the ideal diet for pet dogs that are fighting cancer. We will begin by sharing the next steps that you should take when your dog receives a cancer diagnosis. 

Then, we’ll share some insight regarding how your dog’s body changes when they have cancer. This will prove to be valuable information.

After that, we’ll discuss what you should feed a dog with cancer to support them, as well as what you should avoid feeding them. Continue reading to learn everything that you need to know about your dog’s diet. 

What Are Your Next Steps When You Hear Your Dog Was Diagnosed With Cancer?

Once you’ve experienced the initial shock of hearing a vet diagnose your pet with cancer, you likely find yourself wondering: what should I do? What are my next steps? When a pet falls ill, many people experience a sense of helplessness. Giving your dog the right food that supports their body is one way that you can take action and potentially help your pet when they go through a difficult time. 

Treating a dog that has cancer is a team effort. Not only does it take the diligent efforts of a primary care vet, but it also will include a slew of veterinary specialists, such as veterinary oncologists and the dog’s family. 

The way that a family treats their beloved pet after a cancer diagnosis can sometimes make a tremendous difference. 

While the exact veterinary oncology treatment course varies depending on the type of cancer and its progression, your dog might have to get chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy, or even a combination of these. 

Whichever treatment your dog ends up receiving, giving your dog food that provides them with optimal nutrition is critical. Proper nutrition is a must for several reasons. For one, it supports longevity as well as the quality of life for pups with cancer. 

How Does My Dog’s Body Change Due To Cancer?

Cancer research shows that dogs that have cancer will experience metabolism changes. Your pet will pass through a total of four stages, similar to those of human cancer. Let’s break those down a bit. 

The first phase, phase one, is preclinical. This is before your dog was diagnosed with cancer. Your pet shows no outward signs that they are ill, though there could be alterations in blood test parameters, such as genetic mutations that place them at an increased risk. 

German shepherds may be at an increased risk of cancer as opposed to mixed-breed dogs due to genetics. However, no blood tests, ultrasound, or x-rays can diagnose or screen cancer in this first phase. 

They may have changes in their mast cells, such as mast cell tumors or swelling of the lymph nodes and mammary glands.

The second phase of cancer is when the animal begins to exhibit external clinical signs and symptoms of canine cancer. Some of these include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Sores
  • Lower activity levels or lethargy   
  • Weight loss
  • Odor

Next is phase three, which is one of the more advanced stages of cancer. This is when your dog experiences metabolic changes that are related to their cancer. 

The result is a significant loss of fat stores and muscle. This loss is typically profound, and it’s referred to as cancer cachexia. However, if remission is achieved, this could be reversible. 

Last is phase four changes. These occur when your dog is officially in remission. Even after cancer has been eliminated, metabolic changes could persist and make a complete recovery challenging, even with proper veterinary medical techniques. 

However, your dog’s state of nutrition will play a vital role in managing all of these metabolic changes.

My Dog Has Cancer. What Should I Feed Them?

If you're looking for the ideal diet to feed a dog with cancer, there are several things that you should keep in mind. The first one is that your dog’s ideal diet is unique, so if you can, choosing a customized food that will fit your dog’s needs would be ideal. 

However, some generalized guidelines could prove helpful to follow. 

Keep this in mind when you are feeding your pet: your primary goal when your dog has cancer is to provide food that will help them maintain their body weight. 

For that reason, pet owners should stay away from making drastic diet changes. You don’t want to upset your pet’s belly, as this could lead to diarrhea and vomiting. Before you make any alterations in your pet’s diet, reach out to a trusted veterinarian who knows what’s going on and get their opinion. 

Whatever you do, you certainly should not switch your dog’s food often—not when they’re well and not when they have cancer. 


Transitioning To A New Food Item

Dogs need to be properly transitioned to a new food, and when they have cancer, they’re vulnerable to experiencing vomiting and diarrhea as a result of food changes. You want to avoid this as much as you can.

Still, you certainly can provide your pet with some variety. It’s smart to mix foods to give your dog a variety of different tastes. This is especially valuable when your dog is experiencing chemotherapy. 

Similar to what humans experience, dogs’ taste buds are different and giving your dog an array of foods to choose from without causing a food aversion is important. 

You shouldn’t put your dog on a limited diet unless a vet tells you to do so. It’s a good idea to give your dog several different flavors of the same brand of dog food. This will reduce the likelihood of an upset belly but will keep your pup—and their taste buds—happy with different flavors. 

Cancer cells struggle to use fat as an energy source, so it’s wise to give your dog foods that are higher in fats and lower in carbohydrates (more information on that soon). 

In addition, making sure your dog has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids could help potentially exert an anti-tumor effect. Dogs with cancer should consume food with a ratio of 25-40% dry matter (DM) fat and 5% or more of omega-3 fatty acids. 

In addition, you should be cognizant of your dog’s protein intake. Cancer could lead to an imbalance in protein metabolism, but protein is necessary for your pet to maintain its lean body mass. 

Therefore, your dog should have higher dietary protein levels than it would in a regular adult dog maintenance formulation. This, however, is only if the liver and kidneys are performing regularly. 

What Should I Avoid Feeding A Dog With Cancer?

Just like some foods are better to give a dog with cancer, there are also some foods that you should certainly avoid. Tumor cells feed on carbohydrates and use carbs to promote the growth of cancer cells. 

That’s why having high levels of carbs in your dog’s food could end up feeding the cancer tumor and starving your dog. Your pet’s food shouldn’t be composed of more than 25% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis. You might have to shop around a bit to find that. In addition, you should avoid feeding your dog beef when they have cancer. 

This is more difficult for your pet to digest, so it would be wise to avoid that. 

Giving Your Dog The Right Food Is Critical

If you are looking for supportive food that will give your dog a balanced, complete diet, you should check out Kabo. Kabo’s meals are delivered right to your doorstep, and they’re fresh. 

You fill out a questionnaire about your pet, answer some questions about their activity level, age, weight, and breed, and then the recommended recipes are suggested to you. Just order, and your dog’s meals appear on your front door!  

Feeding your dog well when they are facing cancer is critical. By giving them supportive food that has their recommended nutrients, you are helping take action. 

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