Archive for Sunday, March 30, 2003

Pets with cancer need good diet

March 30, 2003


What is the best diet for my cat Bentley to eat? He was recently diagnosed with cancer, and I want to make sure I'm feeding him the best diet to help him recover.

Feeding the correct diet is important for all pets, especially those with cancer. In my opinion, nutrition is often overlooked when treating most conditions. Studies demonstrate that both people and pets with inadequate nutrition cannot metabolize chemotherapy drugs adequately, and that predisposes individuals to toxicity and poor therapeutic response. This makes proper diet and nutritional supplementation important in cancer therapy.

The prepared diet N/D can be useful for dogs and cats with cancer. Alternatively, a homemade diet using fresh organic ingredients can be easily prepared and is enjoyed by dogs and cats.

Regarding dietary protein, there is a pronounced decrease in certain amino acids in the plasma of cancer patients. If left uncorrected, these amino acid deficiencies could result in serious health risks to the patient. Supplementation with the deficient amino acids might improve immune function and positively affect treatment and survival rates.

Most of the weight loss seen in cancer patients occurs as a result of depleted body fat stores. Tumor cells, unlike normal healthy cells, have difficulty utilizing fats for energy. Dogs with lymphoma that were fed diets high in fat had longer remission periods than dogs fed high-carbohydrate diets.

The use of omega-3 fatty acids can promote weight gain and may have anti-cancer effects. In people, the use of omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oils, improves the immune status, metabolic status and clinical outcomes of cancer patients, according to medical literature. These supplements also decrease the duration of hospitalization and complication rates in people with gastrointestinal cancer. In animals, the omega-3 fatty acids inhibit the formation of tumors and their spread.

Finally, the omega-3 fatty acids can reduce radiation damage to skin.

While there are often many treatment options for various malignancies experienced by our patients, we often overlook the simple aspect of nutrition. In the next decade, prevention and treatment will most likely include a focus on nutrition in veterinary medicine, just as our human counterparts are doing in the human medical field. The research is out there: There is no doubt that cancer patients have deranged nutrient metabolism that can negatively affect the outcome of conventional therapies. Additions of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidant vitamins and minerals, and immune-boosting herbs to the diet of cancer patients may help improve survival in pets with cancer.

Dear readers: I want to call your attention to Pets For the Elderly, a charity that will pay the adoption fees; pre-adoption veterinary exam, including inoculations; and spay/neuter expenses when senior citizens (more than 60 years of age) adopt a companion pet from a participating shelter. For senior citizens who require financial aid to assist them with pet care, Pets For the Elderly might be able to help.

And for those readers who would like to make a tax-deductible donation to help with the organization's mission, you can learn more about this group at, or call 1-866-849-3598. I'm in favor of anything that can help pet owners with the cost of health care. Many senior citizens are alone except for the companionship of a beloved dog or cat, and cost can sometimes prevent these pet owners from doing everything they'd like to do for their pets. I encourage all of you to check this out and help.

-- Shawn P. Messonnier is a veterinarian and pet care advocate.

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