Canine Cancer Diets
Caring for a dog with cancer requires more than treating the cancer cells themselves. Frequently, cancer drains a dog like no other condition can. Loss of appetite, weakened immune system and lack of energy can all sap the energy to recover. Sometimes, the treatments themselves can upset important body functions while the cancer cells are attacked. You need a plan!
Diets for Dogs With Cancer
There are many considerations when feeding dogs with cancer. One is based on a study performed on dogs with stage 3 Lymphoma, and shows that a diet moderate in protein, low in carbohydrates and moderate in fat - especially Omega 3 fatty acids - was successful in prolonging life. This work was done by Dr. Greg Ogilvie.
The other popular way to feed a dog with cancer is the ketogenic diet. Based on both human studies and some feeding trials done by the Ketopet Sanctuary, and promoted by blogger Rodney Habib and holistic veterinarian Karen Becker among others, this method of feeding has actually been happening for many years, but the major difference here was that test subjects had blood drawn. In actual practice, most people want to feed a diet that stands the best chance of helping their dog without the need to test their blood daily at home.
Keto diets are based on the dog entering ketosis, so the body burns fat rather than carbohydrates as fuel. Cancer cells make use of carboydrates - therefore the goal is to starve cancer cells by replacing calories that may have been provided by carbs with dietary fat such as coconut oil. Reaching this point can take a very high percentage of dietary fat. Not all dogs are good candidates for this type of diet. Those with gastrointestinal disease may experience serious setabcks.
There are dogs that never reach the point of ketosis, and many that do reach it, but can't remain in that state. Before you feed these generic diets, please consider some facts:
There are a different types of cancers, and while it's pretty much agreed that cancer is a metabolic disease, there are differences to consider. For example, some mast cell cancers release large amounts of histamine which causes itching. Most veterinary protocols would include an antihistamine, but diet plays an important role as well. Some foods are higher in histamine content than others, so it's not just a matter of feeding a ketogenic diet, but rather, choosing the correct foods to begin with, and then targeting certain fat and protein levels. Choosing specific antioxidants in foods can also be important.
Understanding the dog's tolerance to fat is key. Some dogs simply don't tolerate diets that are high in fat, and forcing that type of diet on them backfires. You don't want to add pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) to the list of problem your dog is dealing with. Pancreatitis is very dangerous, so consider the bigger picture before jumping on the latest feeding trend. Some holistic vets, and dog owners say that a keto diet is safe if the dog is fed a moderate amount of protein, and is kept active. My experience in the real world differs dramatically. The dogs that come to mind first are Border Collies - high drive, one was a working dog on a farm. In great shape, not heavy, and very active. Pancreatitis hit anyway. What matters most is not the general information circulating on the internet, but the reality of the dog in front of you.
Vitamins & Minerals
Despite the trials of coping with cancer, the body continues to require vitamins and minerals for all functions. According to some studies, withholding iron and copper is beneficial because cancer cells themselves, make good use of these two minerals. There always needs to be a consideration of what we may be doing to the cancer cells, as well the the host. Dogs continue to need iron and copper, so limiting them may have a place, but withholding them is an extreme that backfires.
Vitamin C has been studied in cancer cases and the findings show that it works as a pro-oxidant, antioxidant or does nothing at all. With such dramatically different findings, we choose not to add additional vitamin C within the supplementation program. In fact, most veterinary oncologists feel the same way and suggest that a dog not be supplemented with vitamins C and E over and above their normal requirements. Since dogs make their own vitamin C, and there will be some in a few of the foods we suggest, supplementation isn't needed.
Feeding a Dog During Chemotherapy
Not every dog going through chemo has bad reactions, but some develop an aversion to eating. In fact some dogs that have cancer and aren't going through chemo can have the same issues. Oral cancers are an example of that. In the many years of formulating diets for dogs with cancers of all kinds, the uniqueness of a dog's response has taught us that there needs to be an array of solutions when appetite lessens.
Owners are understandably overwhelmed by the diagnosis of cancer, the schedule back and forth to the vet for treatments and follow-up, expense and ongoing fear. So, when the dog refuses to eat, it seems like all the effort and progress made to this point was pointless. But we don’t give up. Although there isn’t a one size-fits-all-solution, at least one (and hopefully more) of these things can help your dog.
Ellagic acid, a key component of the Antioxidant Booster, is studied as an important part of cancer intervention. This is explained best in this newsletter (scroll through it to reach the paragraph pertaining to ellagic acid.
Your dog may benefit from digestive enzymes if s/he is experiencing weight loss. Probiotics can help the immune system by providing beneficial bacteria to the gut. We offer three types of digestive aids: Acidophilus to help the immune system, specifically the gastrointestinal area. Seeding the digestive tract with beneficial bacteria can help ease an inconsistent bowel. Digestive Enzymes includes pork-derived protease, an enzyme that helps to break down protein in food. Plant Digestive Enzymes are suggested as an alternative for dogs with a sensitivity to enzymes derived from pork.
L-glutamine has been found to protect the gut when the body is going through chemo. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center explains " The benefits of glutamine in cancer care have been examined in clinical studies for cachexia, peripheral neuropathy, mucositis, and gastrointestinal toxicity. Intravenous glutamine significantly reduced chemotherapy-induced nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea in patients with gastric or colorectal cancer
Essential Fatty Acids
Omega 3 and Omega 6 are two essential fatty acids that together, form the membrane of every cell in the body, make up a large part of the structural and functional tissue in the brain, have vital roles in the functions of inflammation, healing and body heat and become prostaglandins which play key roles in regulating the digestive, cardiovascular and immune functions of the body.
According to Dr. Ogilvie, fish body oil should be fed as 100 mg per pound of bodyweight per day once a dog has cancer. Our oil of choice is wild salmon oil and must be top quality in order to avoid heavy metals and PCBs.
Fish body oils have been shown to help compromised kidneys and heart, reduce inflammation help to heal skin and benefit the coat.
For Further Reading
The Canine Cancer eBooklet: General advice for the person who has discovered their dog has cancer. Where to begin and what to look for. Includes sample diets.
Optimal Nutrition discusses many health issues and includes an interview with Dr. Greg Ogilive - creator of "the cancer diet" for dogs, and his orginal diet with explanations.
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