When a dog or cat has cancer, they may experience some weight loss. In the most severe cases, this condition may be referred to as cancer cachexia. An animal suffering from cancer cachexia loses both fat and muscle despite a normal caloric intake, and experiences an elevated metabolism that makes reversing the condition challenging to treat. Regardless of whether your pet is cachexic, there are certain dietary considerations that should be taken into account to keep your pet at a healthy weight when they are dealing with cancer.
• Low in Carbohydrates – Tumor cells metabolize simple sugars like glucose and create lactate as a by-product. The animal’s system then converts the lactate back into glucose, but the inefficiency ends up burning more energy than is gained from the caloric value of the carbohydrates in the first place. It’s recommended that you keep your pet’s carbohydrate intake to a minimum – avoid grains common in breads and pastas, and look for food with a low glycemic index, such as oatmeal and brown rice.
• High in Protein – In dogs and cats with cancer, a moderately high protein intake will help maintain healthy muscle mass and strong immune response. Pet foods have their protein content listed on the package, and it helps to aim for 30-50% protein content.
• High in Fat – When your pet’s appetite decreases, their body relies on fat storage to make up for reduced caloric intake. Short term fasting when your pet is not feeling well will deplete their fat stores, so it’s important to keep them at a healthy weight. The addition of omega fatty acids, found in salmon and sardines, can help prevent cancer cachexia. Typically a healthy dosage of fats consists of 50-60% of their diet.
• Other Considerations – To help your pet eat, you can try adding moisture to their kibble or putting them on a wet food diet. Your veterinarian may also be able to special order or prescribe food that will maintain your pet’s weight and keep them healthy. You can also warm up the food to make it aromatic and palatable, but be sure to stir it up to avoid hot spots. If the food is warm and not hot to the touch, it is safe for your companion animal to eat. Finally, if you elect to add supplements to your pet’s diet, make sure you clear them with your veterinarian to ensure they don’t interact with your pet’s medications.