Previous posts in this series:
One of the most helpful things I learned from The Dog Cancer Survival Guide* was about diet and how a healthy one can benefit dogs with cancer (and all dogs really). I already knew this but I wasn’t clear on what was specifically best to do for Sheba.
The book highly recommends a homemade diet for dogs with cancer. I’m all for that, and have thought of doing that many times, but for me with three dogs it’s just a matter of having time. I cook healthier for my hubby and I now. We eat very few processed foods and I believe in cooking with fresh foods as much as possible. If you do that as well, you know that “cooking from scratch” can be time consuming. I love to cook, when I have the time. There are times I make a healthy meal and just sigh when I see the mess I’ve left behind in the kitchen when I’m done.
I decided to compromise and I now cook for the dogs, but not every day. Often I’ll put something together on the weekend when I have more time. Still wanting to do as much as possible, we decided to switch Sheba to a healthier kibble as well. I already believe in the brands we feed, but I wanted to do a little better. Dr. Dressler recommends Halo, Solid Gold, Orijen, Blue Buffalo, Canine Caviar and Taste of the Wild. We chose Orijen 6 Fish* because it is a brand I was already familiar with and believe in.
I’m not going to lie to you – that food is expensive. Since we chose not to pursue conventional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation we feel that we can afford to do this, though we only feed it to Sheba, the other two are on different foods that we still feel are high quality.
For this post I want to share the basics of Dr. Dressler’s dog cancer diet and the philosophy behind it. In subsequent posts I will share more about the specific foods that are recommended, that we are choosing to feed, and the meals we’re making.
This “Wild Diet” as Dr. Dressler calls it is based on the idea that the wild cousins of dogs eat freshly killed animals that are not processed, and have been feeding on plants and grasses. The wild diet includes protein, fats, and vegetables but not grains like corn or wheat. The foods included are only foods that encourage healthy cell growth and discourage cancer cell growth.
A big benefit is that it is something that can help Sheba immediately, can also help dogs with cancer that are suffering from weight loss and weakness (luckily Sheba is not to that point yet), and best of all, dogs love it!
The problem with kibble is that the processing it goes through causes the protein to lose its bioavailability and needed minerals are also reduced during that processing. I was also quite surprised to find that Dr. Dressler does not recommend a raw diet for dogs with cancer. I had figured that is the closest to fresh kill you can get. However, dogs with cancer have compromised immune systems, and that makes them unable to fight off possible bacteria that can be found in raw food. He believes it is great for healthy dogs, but not dogs with cancer.
In my opinion, if you know the source of your raw food and feel strongly that it is safe, that is your decision to make. I have chosen to sometimes use Nature’s Variety Raw Boost Mixers. I wondered how freeze dried raw could be different, and looked into that. There is a food safety protocol called High Pressure Processing and Nature’s Variety uses that. It kills bacteria but has minimal effect on nutritional value. (You can read more about it by clicking here).
Here are a few other basics of the Wild Diet:
- All meat is cooked at low temperatures to minimize carcinogens but long enough to kill microbes. All meat should be cooked thoroughly, except for steaks where bacteria only lives on the surface. Simmering works well.
- Vegetables should be cooked thoroughly. Vegetables are broken down in prey by their digestion, and if you don’t break down vegetables for your dog they may not get all the nutrition out of it (think carrots or corn when you’ve seen it come out the other end of your dog!). I’ve been steaming them which works well, but if you really didn’t want to cook them, you could at least puree in a food processor to break them down some.
- Don’t overfeed! Keeping your dog with cancer (and all dogs) at a healthy weight is imperative. A lean healthy body is more resistant to cancer. Sheba has put on a little weight, which she needed to, but now we need to be careful not to overfeed and to make the proper adjustments when topping their kibble with our homemade mix.
- Reduce Omega 6’s, found in corn and vegetable oils, and the fat of grain fed animals; as well as sugar. Excess of these can suppress the immune system, feed cancer cells, and create inflammation. Don’t forget that carbohydrates (found in corn, wheat, flours) break down into sugars. There are safe low glycemic grains (oats, brown rice) that are included in the diet. Omega 3’s are the good fatty acids and the diet includes fish oil supplements to provide that.
- If you choose a complete homemade diet, don’t forget to make the changeover slowly. Since we are only doing a partial homemade diet (2-3 days/week as a topper to kibble), we didn’t worry too much about that; though I always monitor the dogs to be sure there are no digestive issues.
- There are also other supplements that need to be added if you go to a complete homemade diet. I’ll get into those and other details in my next posts on this subject.
I don’t believe something 100% just because I read it. For me, I want to know the science behind it and it has to make sense to me. If there are parts of this diet that don’t make sense to me, then I don’t include them. Just because one doctor says it does not make it “gospel”. I think everyone should make their own choices based on what they believe. “Take what you like and leave the rest” is a support group mantra that I have always lived by.
What truly makes me believe in this diet is the expression on their faces and the enthusiasm that they eat these meals with. This change has not been only for Sheba, but Luke and Cricket are benefitting as well. This is going to be a lifetime change for all of the dogs; with the possibility of going completely homemade at some point. For now, I am enthusiastic about this because it makes Sheba happy and it improves her quality of life, which is what this is really all about.
Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian and the things we are trying here are our own choice to try, after doing my own research. You should consult your own vet when making any significant changes to your dogs’ diet or lifestyle.
*Affiliate links: we may receive a small commission if you order through these links, but you will pay the same.