When researching nutrition and diet for dogs with cancer, it’s very easy to get confused by all of the information out there on the Internet. As more and more pet parents investigate, and spend money, on natural and holistic alternatives for their companions, more and more products are becoming available at your local pet food store and through major pet supply catalogs. It can be very overwhelming trying to decide which supplements are actually worthwhile and which may be a waste of money. As parents of pups with cancer, we want to give our fur babies supplements that will really help them in their fight, but this has to be balanced with the severe financial crunch that most of us face as we try to manage the very real expense of chemotherapy, radiation therapy or cancer surgery. So where to start? Below are two critical supplements that virtually every pup with cancer should have incorporated into their daily routine, and that won’t break the bank.
Essential Fatty Acids
Essential Fatty Acids, specifically Omega 3’s, are an excellent addition to any dog’s diet, but they are especially beneficial for dogs with cancer. Fatty acids, which are most commonly found in fish oil, cod liver oil, and flaxseed oil, play an important role in the development and maintenance of a healthy brain, liver, heart and immune system. They also help improve the performance of antioxidants in the body (antioxidants help protect against cell damage). According to Shawn Messonnier, DVM in his book, “The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs,” Omega 3’s can also inhibit the formation of tumors and the spread of cancer, reduce radiation damage to the skin, improve the immune response and decrease wasting, which is a serious concern for animals with cancer. While flaxseed oil is a less expensive option for adding Omega 3’s to your dog’s diet, it is thought that fish oil supplements are superior for dogs with cancer.
There are many good fish oil supplements out there to choose from. For Georgia, we used a product by Thorne Research called Super EPA and as a 45lb dog, she received two capsules per day with her meals. Please Note: Omega 3’s have a blood thinning effect, so if your dog has any special health considerations, or if they are going to be undergoing surgery, consult your veterinarian to confirm whether or not this supplement should be given to your dog on a daily basis. Also, fish oil should be kept at a cool temperature to maintain freshness and effectiveness.
When a dog has cancer, it can profoundly affect their body’s ability to process and absorb nutrients in their food. This is a key cause of cancer cachexia, which occurs when the body is taking in enough calories but continues to lose weight. As dogs lose fat and muscle mass from cachexia, their ability to withstand the stress of typical cancer treaments is compromised. Digestive enzymes, therefore, can be extremely valuable because they help the body to break down food, making it easier for the body to absorb nutrients. This means less effort expended on processing food, and more energy that can be devoted to fighting the cancer in their body. In addition to helping to increase or maintain body weight, this improved access to calories and nutrition can also translate into increased overall energy levels.
A good digestive enzyme product should include 4 types of enzymes — protease, cellulase, amylase and lipase. according to Dr. Messonier, cellulase is especially important if you are adding more vegetables to your dog’s diet, as this enzyme specifially helps your dog to break down plant material and release essential nutrients that are often bound by fiber. Please Note: Because digestive enzymes are destroyed by heat, they are generally not found in commercial diets, and should never be added to hot or warm food or mixed with warm water.
You’ll find digestive enzymes at most pet food stores nowadays, and they are one of the safest, most beneficial and least expensive supplements you will find. One of the most common brands, and the one that we used for Georgia, is called Prozyme. Available in powdered form, we simply sprinkled 1/4 teaspoon of Prozyme on Georgia’s food at each meal.
So, as you begin navigating through information about diet and nutrition for dogs with cancer, consider starting with these two essential supplements, which are beneficial for virtually every dog and every type of cancer. Then, you can gradually add additional supplements based on your dog’s individual needs, and with your veterinarian’s approval.