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Tumor Diet in Dogs & Cats – Six Tips

Which components of food influence tumor development? These six points are important when it comes to feeding animals with tumors.

Professor Jürgen Zentek spoke at the DVG Vet Congress in October 2020 about the influence of nutrition on tumor growth in dogs and cats. First of all, he had to dampen expectations: even in human medicine, there is no established “cancer diet” whose effectiveness could be proven based on evidence. Many of the nutritional recommendations that are circulating are even associated with considerable risks for the patients (malnutrition/weight loss).

Nevertheless, tumorous diseases change the metabolism, and their effects on the organism can be positively influenced by a suitable diet. In particular, the metabolism should be supported; Zentek is rather critical of further statements about the therapeutic effect of feeding. Tumors compete with the organism for nutrients. Their metabolism corresponds to that of normal tissue, but it is extremely active and the processes taking place are only lightly regulated.

These points should be considered in a tumor diet for dogs and cats

  1. High acceptance: Weight loss and muscle wasting are prognostically unfavorable in tumor patients. It is therefore important that the patients like to eat their food. Helpful: fresh food with a high fat and protein content, served in small portions, preferably at body temperature.
  2. High-energy and easily digestible feed: Feed with relatively high energy and fat content can help prevent severe weight loss.
  3. Fish oil: Fatty acids influence the composition of the lipid layer in the cell membrane. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil can improve sensitivity to chemotherapy. It has also been shown that they can also influence the tendency of tumors to metastasize. Finally, hyperlipidemia can negatively impact the immune system. Omega-3 fatty acids can also have a positive effect here.
  4. High protein quality: The protein turnover of tumor patients is usually increased – on the one hand, due to the formation of tumor tissue, on the other hand,d due to the additional need for amino acids for energy production. The supply of protein is a double-edged sword: If you feed a protein-rich diet to cover the needs of the patient, you can always promote tumor growth. The immune system of tumor patients also has an increased need for certain amino acids, such as arginine and glutamine. High-quality protein should be fed to meet this need.
  5. Reduced carbohydrate content: An important feature of tumors is the generation of energy through anaerobic glycolysis. Glut transporters are overexpressed, so glucose is very quickly absorbed from the blood and metabolized anaerobically with the formation of lactate. A tendency towards increased lactate formation and reduced glucose tolerance have been demonstrated in lymphoma patients. These patients benefit from food with a rather low carbohydrate content.
  6. Trace elements and vitamins: A requirement-covering supply of, for example, zinc, copper, iron, and selenium as well as vitamins is important to provide the immune system with all the essential nutrients. However, “a lot helps a lot” does not apply, so supplementation with “normal” feeding is not recommended.

The practice: feeding tumor patients

If the diet of a tumor patient is to be optimized, ready-made diets are available which, according to Zentek, meet the requirements very well. If the owners prefer to give their usual food, fish oil (0.5-1 g/kg body mass) and high-quality proteins, for example in the form of milk and egg protein, can be added.

Caution: cod liver oil is not a good substitute for fish oil, as the vitamin D3 content is usually high. Jürgen Zentek advises against this for tumor patients, whose calcium metabolism is often already impaired; attention must be paid to a basic supply of essential nutrients that covers all needs.

Frequently Asked Question

What can dogs with cancer eat?

A customized BARF menu for a dog with cancer is made up as follows and can vary daily based on this – depending on individual taste preferences: 80% protein-rich meat/fish and 20% antioxidant fruit and vegetables, rounded off with essential salmon or linseed oil.

What to feed a lymphoma dog?

In dogs with malignant lymphoma, the disease-free interval and overall survival were improved when fed a diet enriched with n-3 fatty acids (n-6:n-3 at 0.3:1 instead of 7.7:1 in the control group). It is therefore recommended to use a diet with an n-6:n-3 ratio of < 3.0 or.

What to feed a dog with a liver tumor?

Potatoes, wholemeal pasta, wholemeal rice, buckwheat, and millet are very suitable. Vegetables that are well tolerated by dogs with liver disease include beetroot, celery, spinach, and broccoli. Fruit is allowed in small amounts if your dog likes it.

How long can a dog live with a tumor?

Prognosis: very poor without treatment. With treatment depending on location and stage. With therapy, a life expectancy of 1 year or more can be achieved in favorable cases.

What is a liver failure in cats?

Early clinical symptoms are usually nonspecific, such as changing appetite, weight loss, polyuria and polydipsia, occasional vomiting or diarrhea, and lethargy.

Where does liver cancer in cats come from?

Tumors in your cat’s liver develop when body cells grow and spread out of control. Over time, they crowd out healthy tissue and prevent the organ from doing its job.

What if cats vomit yellow?

If the cat throws up yellow, this is a sign of bile in the vomit. Bile is a digestive juice made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. It is released into the small intestine to break down fats from food and aid in digestion.

What is jaundice in cats?

Jaundice (icterus) is a metabolic disease that can also affect cats. Various causes are possible for the onset of the disease. Because jaundice can be fatal for your cat, it’s important to get it treated by a veterinarian in good time.


Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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