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How To Feed A Dog And Cat With Cancer: Oncology Food And Supplements

The diet of a dog suffering from cancer

Companion animals that live with humans in the same environment, breathing the same air, can also suffer from very similar diseases as their guardians.

Although recently there has been great progress in the field of diagnosis and modern therapeutic regimens for many diseases, at the same time the incidence of a number of less common diseases has increased significantly.

In the past, it was often said that the pet died of old age, today, thanks to more and more perfect diagnostics, we know exactly what was the direct cause of death.

The average statistical life expectancy has also increased, and with it the number of health problems in old age, among which, unfortunately, are cancers, often called simply by owners cancer.

In this article, I will introduce you to the issues related to the nutritional support of seriously ill patients, because such are cancer patients.

You will learn how the oncological diet supports the treatment process and whether it can food for dogs and cats suffering from cancer prepare at home.

It is true that we are not able to cure many cancers, especially when they are diagnosed late, but let's not forget that we can really extend the life of a sick dog or cat, provided that we treat this disease comprehensively.

Therefore, we should not focus only on the treatment with surgical methods, chemotherapy or radiotherapy, which is less available in our country, but at the same time we should take care of the proper nutrition and condition of our patient.

On the one hand, it will improve the comfort of being ill, and on the other hand, it will avoid the risk of exhaustion of the body, i.e cancer cachexia.

  • What is cachexia?
    • Why is it extremely important and I mention it?
    • Could there be a more unfavorable situation?
  • How to Feed Your Dog / Cat with Cancer?
  • Oncology diet for a dog / cat with cancer
    • Feeding with ready-made, balanced feed
    • Food prepared at home
    • So what to serve?
  • Dietary supplements for dogs: how to enrich food for animals suffering from cancer?
    • Unsaturated fatty acids
  • Amino acids
    • HMB
    • Vitamins
    • Microelements
    • Plants showing anti-cancer properties
  • BARF diet
  • Diet and cancer
  • Prepared food for animals with cancer
  • Is it worth the trouble?

What is cachexia?

Cachexia, also known as cachexia, is a multifactorial complex of metabolic disorders related to cancer.

Its characteristic feature is a significant decrease in the body weight of a sick individual.

It is a very characteristic symptom of an ongoing neoplastic process and is often a factor determining the prognosis, including euthanasia sick pet.

What is cancer cachexia?

The neoplastic cachexia syndrome significantly reduces the normal functioning of the patient.

It also negatively affects his immune system, increases weakness, and worsens survival time and prognosis for treatment.

This unfavorable state of wasting, according to various estimates, even 80% of cancer patients (data from human medicine) is also present in our pets in an equally large percentage.

The immediate cause of this state of affairs is increased metabolic rate and burning your own tissues, and not just the nutrients provided with food.

As a result of cachexia, there is a loss of not only adipose tissue, but also muscle tissue, which negatively affects the patient's quality of life, while impairing the immunity of his body.

He joins in on this one more anorexia, that is, lack of appetite, which further worsens the existing condition of a sick dog or cat.

The organism suffering from cancer loses weight because it does not eat normally, and additionally uses its own tissues for metabolism, eating itself. The consequences are always dire and very serious, so we must do everything we can to avoid cachexia.

Cachexia significantly changes the metabolism of carbohydrates, causing an increase in energy demand, which results from the production of anti-cancer substances and the significant use of energy by the progressive, growing cancer process.

Characteristically, tumor cells obtain energy as a result of anaerobic glycolysis processes and are not able to obtain it from fat oxidation.

The growing tumor therefore needs huge amounts of glucose, which, processed in the process of anaerobic glycolysis, causes the increase of lactate.

Lactates, in turn, can be converted back into glucose in the liver, but this process requires energy.

Why is it extremely important and I mention it?

As a consequence of obtaining energy by the cancerous tumor, the body loses very large amounts of it and therefore, among other things, it loses weight, while the tumor grows at its best.

He also shows up frequently insulin resistance and glucose intolerance, therefore we should, as far as possible, try to limit its administration to animals.

Generally speaking, we are dealing with a situation where an intensively growing tumor develops as a result of the neoplastic process, and the body weakens and loses its own tissues and the strength to fight a deadly disease.

Could there be a more unfavorable situation?

As a result of the ongoing neoplastic process, the demand for protein increases and, as a consequence, a negative nitrogen balance appears.

Cancer cells with the features of very intensive growth and fast metabolism must use amino acids to synthesize their own proteins.

The decrease in protein synthesis in skeletal muscles is also very important, in favor of the increase in their production in the liver.

It is in this organ that a huge amount of anti-inflammatory proteins, i.e cytokines, acute phase proteins, tumor necrosis factors, which, however, are not able to inhibit the developing tumor, and additionally cause a decrease in immunity or worsen wound healing. The metabolism of a sick animal becomes stupid and instead of being beneficial in the fight against a serious disease, it often leads to death.

The neoplastic process also leads to the intensification of the process lolysis and reductions lithogenesis down fat loss.

As a result of these processes, there is an increase in plasma concentrations:

  • free fatty acids,
  • triglycerides,
  • acetoacetate,
  • beta-hydroxybutyrate.

The consequence of this imbalance is state immunosuppression (decreased immunity) and shorter survival time.

So we can clearly see that the neoplastic process is not only the intensively growing cells within healthy tissues and organs, but also very serious metabolic changes leading to the disturbance of the organism's homeostasis.

As a consequence, the tumor causes emaciation of the sick patient, visible to the naked eye.

An example of a debilitated dog is given below.

The devastated organism of a dog suffering from cancer

Metabolic changes in the course of neoplastic disease occur before clinical changes, hence it is extremely important to have an appropriate, balanced diet as quickly as possible.

Remember that every sick body may have a worse appetite and not eat the right amount of food, and thus not meet its energy needs.

It seems extremely important to provide him with tasty food with the right consistency so that he is eaten more willingly.

As a consequence, these efforts will lead to the maintenance of an appropriate body weight, prevent its decline, and improve the overall quality of life during the illness.

How to Feed Your Dog / Cat with Cancer?

What to feed a pet with cancer?

Since cancer cells need large amounts of glucose as an energy source, we should make their lives difficult by providing the body with calories in the form of fats and proteins. Amino acids and fatty acids are not because a good source of energy for cancer.

Therefore, you should choose a diet for your pet with an increased amount of protein and fats and a reduced amount of carbohydrates.

We should also remember that reducing the supply of sugar will reduce it hyperglycemia (higher blood glucose levels), which is common in cancer due to insulin resistance in target tissues.

Generally, for animals suffering from cancer, a food is recommended which:

  • 50-60% calories come from fat,
  • 30-50% from protein.

Such a diet is more palatable and prevents the loss of body fat.

In addition to the percentage of fats in the diet, their composition is also important.

So we should increase the proportion of the diet polyunsaturated fatty acids from the family n-3.

Certain amino acids may inhibit the growth of the tumor or make it difficult for the tumor to metastasize (e.g. arginine), while others reduce the side effects of chemotherapy (e.g. glycine) - hence the protein composition of the feed is also important.

Oncology diet for a dog / cat with cancer

Oncological diet for animals

How, then, if you are the owner of a dog or cat suffering from cancer, to create an appropriate diet for it, supporting treatment and ensuring the right body weight??

At home, it is really difficult and requires a great deal of knowledge in the field of animal nutrition and dietetics, analyzing food compositions and composing the right amounts.

Therefore, commercial ready-made feeds, of which there are quite a lot on the market today, turn out to be helpful.

Feeding with ready-made, balanced feed

There is a huge amount of ready-made foods available on the market, from various companies, for different age groups and for specific disease states. Also available oncological feeds, intended for animals suffering from cancer.

So which one to choose and what to suggest?

What is very important, ordinary Food for dogs and cats they contain too much carbohydrate (20-40% energy contained in them comes from sugars), so they should not be used in animals suffering from cancer.

It is easy here, being the owner of a dog or cat, to fall into a trap and give the wrong food, while remaining under the erroneous belief that we are doing everything possible for our sick ward.

So let's check, first of all, the source of energy in such foods, even if they are dedicated during the convalescence period and animals eagerly eat them. The point is not to nourish the tumor, but the body, providing it with the strength to fight the disease.

Food prepared at home

Homemade diet for animals suffering from cancer

As I wrote before, it is extremely difficult to prepare good food in your own kitchen.

Generally, we should rely on meat products and fat limiting carbohydrates, so rather giving up:

  • rice,
  • all types of flour products,
  • pasta,
  • potatoes.

This may seem simple in theory, but remember that we cannot limit an animal's meal to just fat and protein.

Too much of them can provoke even diarrhea or put too much strain on the organs involved in digesting them, such as liver and pancreas.

We should enrich such hand-made food with substances with proven anti-cancer properties, because who would not want to do everything for their pet??

So what is an example of a diet for our pet to use for people who want to prepare their own meals?

Remember that a seriously ill animal, especially with a cancer process, may have a very reduced appetite and refuse to eat even tasty, recommended foods, so it is "less evil " to simply give him what he wants to eat.

It is better to eat something at all, even if in theory it is not recommended, than not to eat at all and lose weight.

In the context of cancer, it is worth considering a diet that has more and more followers and is based on raw ingredients - meat, i.e BARF.

Proponents of this diet follow the philosophy that an animal fed in accordance with its physiology has a much greater, better general immunity and thus fights better against any disease, including cancer.

So what to serve?

The basis of this diet remains raw meat, which it provides 60% the entire diet, vegetables, they are best varied 15%, raw additives 10% (eggs, fish oil), offal 10%, and fruit 5%.

There should be vegetables and fruit mixed so that they resemble the stomach contents of herbivores that would be our dog's victims in their natural environment.

We should feed the dog spinach, broccoli, kale if celery and avoid onions and garlic.

Regarding the details of composing a diet BARF I refer you to the article describing this way of feeding dogs.

How to feed your dog?

When it comes to home nutrition, it is certainly worth focusing on well-digested and easily accessible ones poultry meat, which we should cook. You should also not forget about fat supplementation, e.g. fish oil, fish oil and reducing common carbohydrates - pasta, rice, potatoes.

In cancer, as I have already written, the amount of carbohydrates should be limited, which in practice does not mean that they are completely excluded from the diet.

We can boldly stay even cooked groats, remembering that they are less than twenty% food ration.

Of course, a self-composed diet should be supplemented with minerals, vitamins and anti-cancer dietary supplements.

Finally, I would like to emphasize once again that composing a good, balanced diet on your own is extremely difficult, because it requires a lot of knowledge in the field of dietetics, weighing individual nutrients each time.

It is laborious and expensive, therefore feeding is a much more recommended method ready-made, developed diets.

Each tumor should be treated individually, hence the nutrition will also be slightly different and tailored to a specific case.

In order to provide you with some practical information of a general nature, I suggest:

  1. Serve meals according to the principle little and often, so divide the daily ration into 3-4 applications during the day.
  2. Heat the food to temperature 38-39º C which affects the palatability of the food and encourages the moody, sick animal to eat.
  3. Fat used in the diet also improves the palatability of the food and additionally provides calories and energy that is difficult for the tumor to reach.
  4. remember about getting used to the digestive system to digest the amount of fat in pedestrians, so as not to cause diarrhea in the dog.
  5. Remove any uneaten food from the animal and give it fresh.
  6. In the case of a BARF diet, I suggest you follow the detailed recommendations describing the principles of this diet.
  7. Also, remember that we don't have to worry about obesity in animals with cancer. Allow them to eat as much as they want, especially during the illness, while keeping weight under control of course.

Dietary supplements for dogs: how to enrich food for animals suffering from cancer?

Unsaturated fatty acids

The hit of recent years in the nutrition of animals and humans, in various disease states, remain indispensable unsaturated fatty acids, from the family n-3.

Acids from the family n-6 are absolutely contraindicated here, as they act in the opposite way:

may increase the risk of metastasis and accelerating tumor growth.

A saving action is credited eicosapentoenoic acid - EPA and docosahexaenoic - DHA.

How they do it, however, is not fully known, although there are several, even very probable theories.

One of them says that by building into the membranes of cancer cells they change their permeability, making them more susceptible to chemotherapeutic agents and substances produced in the body.

Rising and oxygen free radicals they destroy cancer cells. The best sources of these acids are fish oil or linseed oil, which can be added to a meal.

There are also ready-made dog food supplements containing approx 300 mg of DHA and EPA in one capsule.

Amino acids

When composing a diet for an animal fighting cancer, it is worth considering enriching it with arginine and glutamine. These two amino acids have proven therapeutic effects, improve the immune system, inhibit tumor growth or reduce metastasis.

Larger amounts of arginine and glutamine are found in:

  • milk and dairy products and
  • poultry meat,
  • fish,
  • sunflower oil.


Another substance to think about in the context of cancer and cachexia is HMB i.e. 3-hydroxy-3-methylbutyrate.

It causes the inhibition of the progressive process of decrease in muscle mass, and also rebuilds muscles.

What is worth emphasizing, there are veterinary products containing this ingredient that can be easily found in stores.


For years, some vitamins have also been very important, especially those with antioxidant properties, i.e. vitamin AND, E and C.

As scientific research shows, cancer is accompanied by increased oxidative stress and therefore recommended vitamin supplementation to counteract the negative effects of free oxygen radicals.

In many cases of cancer we find a decrease in serum concentration vitamin C, zinc if vitamin E and the elevation iron and copper.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A and its derivatives may prove very helpful in treatment skin cancer, and by causing neoplastic cells to differentiate, they make them more susceptible to treatment.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C it blocks the neoplastic process chemically by inhibiting the nitrosation reaction and may be effective in the case of digestive system tumors.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E being a free radical scavenger, it protects the body against cancer.

In some cases, it may also reduce existing changes, e.g. a case of canine lymphoma where a reduction in peripheral lymph nodes was observed.

I omit the dosage of vitamins on purpose, because it is characterized by a very wide range and diversity for each type of cancer and is very individual.

There are also some doubts arising from the administration of vitamins to animals suffering from cancer.

They are based on the suspicion that by counteracting the role played by free oxygen radicals, we protect cancer cells from being destroyed, for example, by. chemotherapy.

Of course, each type of neoplasm should always be treated individually, because, as practice shows, it is different in each case. Sometimes supplementation can "harm" and in other cases vice versa - increase the chances of survival.


When preparing a home diet, we should also remember about micronutrients such as selenium if iron.

As far as the former shows antitumor effect and most recommended is iron may increase the risk of developing cancer and accelerate tumor growth.

It has been proved in the conducted research that selenium compounds inhibit the growth of mammary gland tumors in dogs.

They can also prevent the development of prostate cancer in dogs by limiting DNA damage and stimulating apoptosis, i.e. the destruction of cancer cells.

It is well known that neoplastic cells require intensive growth iron ions hence, it seems logical to limit its supply in the diet of sick animals, as it is done in the case of human cancers.

So we give up dark, iron-rich meat, for example pork, beef if game in favor of the poultry, fish if lamb.

Plants showing anti-cancer properties

It also seems a good idea to introduce certain vegetables into the diet of animals, as they have anti-cancer properties. These include, for example:

  • broccoli,
  • spinach,
  • kale,
  • celery.

A controversial plant in the context of its use in animals with outstanding antitumor activity seems to be Garlic.

In addition to its proven beneficial effect in cancer (it contains substances that are toxic to cancer cells), it can cause poisoning symptoms in animals manifested by hemolysis. That is why the use of garlic in animals must be very carefully considered and consulted with a veterinarian.

Personally, I would advise against using garlic alone, and if it is rather in the form of ready-made dietary supplements intended for people or preferably dedicated specifically to animals.

BARF diet

Recently, it has become more and more popular raw diet called for short BARF. Many specialists recommend the BARF diet in neoplastic disease.

Staunch supporters of this method of nutrition adhere to the principle according to which the return to the most physiologically similar method of animal nutrition based on unprocessed ingredients found in nature provides natural immunity and increases the body's vitality.

According to the principles on which the BARF diet is based, all meals should be raw.

From this diet we exclude:

  • cereals,
  • carbohydrate products,
  • most vegetables and fruits,
  • milk products,
  • honey.

So what we give?

Mostly raw:

  • poultry meat,
  • fish meat,
  • rabbit meat,
  • we avoid red meats (pork and beef),
  • lettuce and broccoli,
  • we supplement meals with fats and vegetable oils.

More on diet BARF you will learn from the article: "Advantages and disadvantages of the BARF diet. Principles of dog and cat nutrition "

Diet and cancer

So far, the article has described the situation:

what to feed an animal suffering from cancer?

Meanwhile, it is also worth mentioning what not to give to reduce the risk of disease, i.e. a bit about the relationship between diet and cancer.

Well, in some specific cancers, the relationship between feeding certain foods and an increased incidence of the disease has been scientifically proven.

For example:

in the diet of bitches with mammary cancer the foods that delivered the average dominated just over 40% of energy from fat, whereas in the remaining healthy bitches the percentage of fat was higher.

Moreover, the healthy ones were fed mainly on a home diet.

In other studies it has been proven negative impact of meat nutrition, especially beef and pork, and therefore the so-called "red meat " and thus an increased risk mammary gland tumors.

In the case of oral squamous cell carcinoma risk factor was feeding with wet food or cans.

It has also been absolutely shown that overweight and obesity can increase the risk of certain cancers in dogs - hence the important prevention and care for the proper condition of your pet.

These are, of course, only examples, as we do not fully know all potential neoplastic factors.

Research is still ongoing.

They are to show and make us realize how important it is to properly feed animals at every stage of their life and development.

Prepared food for animals with cancer

Oncological food for the dog

On the market of animal products, we also have ready-made oncological feeds and dietary supplements recommended for animals suffering from cancer.

They are certainly a nutritional alternative worth considering as they support the healing process by providing all the necessary nutrients to the cancer-fighting body.

However, we must remember that containing large amounts of fat and energy must be introduced to the diet of the animal gradually. It is worth remembering because a sudden change of diet can cause digestive system disorders that are not used to digesting increased amounts of fat.

One such oncology food is, for example Hill 's Prescription Diet N / D Panine.

There are also dietary supplements that contain substances that are very helpful in the fight against the cancer process.

This is for example Vetfood NTS Imunoactive Anticachectic capsules.

It is worth taking advantage of these opportunities because they increase the chances of improving the comfort and extending the life of a pet with cancer.

Is it worth the trouble?

Is it worth the trouble?

The neoplastic process in animals is a very serious, dangerous, chronic disease, often leading to death.

For many owners, such a diagnosis sounds like a sentence and is a reason for the euthanasia of the animals.

However, for all those who want to fight cancer, we have the opportunity to improve the comfort of being sick and increase the length of animal survival.

So why not take advantage of it?

From my own experience, I know many examples of terminally ill with cancer of dogs and cats, whose owners did not give up, despite an unfavorable diagnosis.

Thanks to this, they could enjoy the presence of their pets for a long time.

They took up the fight, gaining many months of life and when they said goodbye to their charges, they could calmly say that they had done everything that could be done.

I think that it is in this approach to animals that our humanity is revealed and it turns out what kind of people we really are.

It is not about prolonging life at all costs, condemning the animal to unnecessary suffering, but about ensuring the comfort of being ill and helping those who are not able to relieve themselves. Specialist nutrition serves this purpose, so let us not give up on it, because it really brings measurable benefits.

You have questions related to the nutrition of animals suffering from cancer?

You want to learn more about developing an oncology diet?

Now add a comment under the article - I will answer all your questions.

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