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The Role of Diet for Cancer Recovery in Dogs

Source: The Honest Kitchen Updated on July 16, 2015


A diagnosis of cancer is a devastating discovery. However, modern medicine combined with holistic modalities can help maintain a pet's quality of life, as well as extend life much further than was possible years ago. While food in itself cannot cure cancer, diet and nutrition (in the form of both foods and supplements) can be an important tool in managing this disease.

Nutritional Therapy for Dogs

Increasing protein levels and decreasing carbohydrate intake

Nutritional therapy involves amending the diet to lower carbohydrate intake. Tumors grow most rapidly with carbohydrates as fuel, so a diet that is higher in fat and protein, with restricted carbs and sugars, will help to slow the growth of a tumor and maintain overall health. A diet that is 25% carbohydrates or less, as-served, is best. A grain-free food is highly recommended for both dogs and cats, especially when cancer has been diagnosed.

However, diets that are ultra-high in protein (40% or more) have been called into question by some pet health professionals. It’s true that protein is the most natural form of calories for dogs and cats, but working on the basis that pure, fresh, raw meat is only about 14% to 17% protein as-served, a diet that has twice that level of protein, and almost no natural moisture, could be detrimental to health in the long term.

Fresh meat has a high moisture content and is a key component of the natural diet for dogs and cats. An increasing number of holistic vets recommend avoiding dried, kibbled diets with less than 10 percent moisture, especially when a pet is unwell. Kibble actually robs the body of moisture during the digestion process and can have ill effects over the course of an animal’s life. Raw diets are not recommended for dogs undergoing chemotherapy as their immune systems may be compromised, making them vulnerable to bacteria that may be present in the food.

Holistic Diets

More than at any other time, cancer recovery calls for a diet that is free of toxins, chemicals and other ingredients that are harmful to the body as a whole. When cancer has been diagnosed, a switch to organic meats and vegetables where available, can have a positive impact on total health.

Ingredients which have a cleansing or tonic effect on the blood are also beneficial during cancer treatment and recovery. Sardines, as well as eggs, apricots, parsley, carrots and beef, all nourish the blood according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Ingredients that tonify Qi, the flow of energy in the body, include beef, chicken, herring, mackerel, oats, brown rice, millet, pumpkin, squash, figs, sweet potatoes, and yams. A Qi deficiency may occur during cancer and its subsequent treatment.

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