Cancer in Pets: Dietary Recommendations

Pet nutrition in an animal with cancer should have the goal of maintaining, if not improving, theIMG 4962 300x200 body condition of the animal.  The diet needs to taste good, be highly digestible, and preferably energy dense.  Pet nutrition products or diets relatively high in fat content are preferred, because in theory, they should preferentially provide energy to the animal rather than the cancer.  Pet nutrition products or diets high in carbohydrates (especially simple sugars) should be avoid as it is thought they may provide additional energy to the cancer.  Thus, a high-fat (greater than 40-50% of calories), restricted carbohydrate diet with sufficient protein to meet the needs of the pet is recommended.  It should be made clear that these recommendations are made largely on theoretical and practical reasons. However, low carbohydrate, high fat diets have been shown to improve weight gain in people with cancer.  A diet produced by Hills Pet Nutrition Inc. called Hill’s n/d diet (n stands for neoplasia) is designed with these features in mind. .

Types of pet nutrition for the cancer patient.

There is no significant difference between dry and canned (wet) pet nutrition products.  However, since canned food contains more water than dry food, dry food is typically more energy dense than canned food.  In some circumstances, dry food may be more palatable to an animal than canned food, and vice versa.  A product produced by a reputable manufacturer is the safest and easiest way of avoiding nutritional deficiencies or excesses.  In general, the products most likely to fit the nutritional profile for animals with cancer are premium brand diets that are formulated for use in performance or stress, or kitten and puppy foods.  Examples of products that may be considered include:

Hill’s n/d diet (Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc.) – contains added omega-3 fatty acids, arginine and is in canned form.

Hill’s a/d diet (Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc.) – contains added omega-3 fatty acids, glutamine, branch chain amino acids, potassium, taurine and is in canned form that can be easily fed by syringe.

Clinicare (Abbott Animal Health) – contains added omega-3 fatty acids, glutamine, arginine, and taurine, is lactose free and in liquid form.

Maximum-Calorie (Eukanuba Veterinary Diets) – contains added omega-3 fatty acids, branch chain amino acids, taurine, and is in dry or canned formulations.

CV Feline formula (Nestle Purina) – low sodium, added potassium, carnitine, taurine, and is in canned form.

For more information about which diet might be best for your specific pet, talk with your veterinarian!

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Dr Stephen Atwater

Stephen W. Atwater, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM (oncology) is a board-certified veterinary oncology specialist. His professional interests include utilizing emerging therapies for difficult to treat cancers.

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