Food and eating are an important aspect of quality of life for pets as well as for people; and maintaining a good dietary intake helps to make a patient's body more resilient to both disease and treatment. Caregivers often wonder how best to feed their pets with cancer. As quality of life is always the primary consideration for care of pets with cancer, it's important to remember that the best food is not only nutritionally complete and appropriate to the individual condition, but should also be enjoyable!
Here are a few tips to help you optimize your pet's enjoyment, as well as his or her intake and nutritional status:
- Ask your veterinarian to help you make sure that pain and / or nausea and other metabolic imbalances are controlled to the extent possible.
- Ask your veterinarian whether appetite stimulants would be appropriate.
- Make any dietary changes gradually to avoid causing digestive upsets, diarrhoea, and even pancreatitis.
- Warm the food to body temperature before feeding.
- For cats, provide food throughout the day.
- If your pet is unable to eat, ask your veterinarian to discuss with you whether a feeding tube would be appropriate.
In choosing a commercially available diet or preparing your own:
- Choose a diet or use ingredients that your pet prefers.
- Avoid excessive starches and sugars (carbohydrates).
- Use high quality protein sources (meat, fish).
- Consider supplementing with n-3 fatty acids, such as DHA or fish oil.
Pets have different dietary requirements than people do, and it's important not simply feed your pet human food. High quality commercially prepared pet foods are nutritionally balanced for pets, so are a simpler option than trying to home-cook a balanced diet. Hill's Prescription Diet n/d is optimized for dogs with most types of cancer, and for dogs that enjoy it, is probably the simplest best choice. If you prefer to home-cook for your dog, try the "Ogilvie Canine Cancer Homemade Diet".
Remember, it is more important that your pet eats, than it is for your pet to eat a specific cancer diet; if your pet refuses to eat the prescribed diet, discuss alternatives with your veterinarian rather than have your pet have a suboptimal caloric intake.
Finally, a word of caution about seemingly magical supplements offered in magazines, health food stores, and on the internet. There is certainly potential for nutritional and herbal supplements to be effective, but many formulations haven't been adequately evaluated for efficacy or side effects. We strongly recommend consulting with a veterinarian qualified in alternative and complementary medicine or naturopathy to help you choose what may or may not be appropriate for your pet.