The Story of Noritaka
When Noritaka was diagnosed with a very aggressive fibrosarcoma, it broke her guardians’ hearts, but they were determined to do whatever they could for their beloved Nori for whatever time she had left. A tumour had been found at the junction of the small and large intestine, and when she first came home following her surgery, she wouldn’t eat. Nori’s guardians knew that if a cat doesn’t eat for 24 hours, she can suffer from hepatic lipidosis, a life threatening condition that would be an addition to the cancer she was already fighting. This is when animal guardians have to pull out all the stops. Fortunately, Nori’s guardians made sure that they were very well prepared for the challenge facing them. Initially, they used a syringe to feed Nori beef liver that had been gently cooked and then liquefied in a blender. They fed her several meals throughout the day and night, and it was a real cause for celebration when Nori began to lap up a mixture of tuna and warm filtered water on her own. Even Nori’s favourite biscuits were whirled in the blender, and slowly, she graduated to eating ground beef, turkey, and chicken, and puréed fruits and vegetables. It was a miracle that Noritaka survived her surgery, and it was another miracle when she lived ten days past her surgery, but it was a true testament to love, when Nori surprized everyone, her beloved guardians most of all, and lived ten months past her original diagnosis.
There are no ten commandments or easy to follow lesson plans for feeding a pet with cancer. Simply put, one diet does not fit all, and what works well today, may not be tolerated at all tomorrow. Tastes and textures change. Even regular feeding schedules and places, can be turned upside down. The road to good nutrition is not always paved the way we would like it to be, and guardians have to be prepared for sharp turns and potholes when faced with cancer. With the guidance of a veterinarian or nutritionist, we may get a better idea of what we can expect on our journey, but there is always the road untravelled.
The most critical thing of all, is ensuring that your canine or feline cancer patient eats, and this can be the most difficult job of all, because pets with cancer lose weight, not only because they reduce their regular food intake, but also because of the tremendous metabolic impact of cancer on our animal companions. “If they go hungry long enough, they’ll eat anything,” does not hold true for cancer, despite what anyone tells you.
Research tells us that animals with cancer have an altered carbohydrate metabolism, so a diet that is lower in carbohydrates (while not discounting the value of complex carbohydrates), and contains high quality proteins and fish oil as the primary fat source, best meets the needs of the animal cancer patient. Grains should account for no more than 10% of the diet for dogs, while no grain is recommended for cats. That leaves us with 30 to 50% meat for dogs, along with 30 to 40% fruits and vegetables, and for cats, 40 to 60% meat, and 20 to 30 % fruits and vegetables. A calcium source and a vitamin-mineral supplement, complete the base of the diet. When preparing food for your pet, try to use organic products, and always use distilled, filtered, or spring water. Remember though, all rules truly do go out the window as you are speeding down the highway, when it comes to battling cancer on the nutrition front, so be prepared to feed “anything,” from soup to nuts!
Using the crockpot is one of the easiest ways to prepare a nutritious meal for your cancer patient and its aroma may be just the thing to entice your pet to eat. Knowing the percentage of protein, fats, and carbohydrates you are working towards, makes it easy to choose ingredients for your cancer cooking challenge. Consider chicken, beef, turkey, or a novel protein like ostrich or emu or buffalo, along with liver and heart, eggs, carrots, broccoli, celery, cabbage, Bok Choy, turnip greens, spinach, and summer squash, enhanced by antioxidant rich garlic and turmeric. Canned wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, and other fish, can top off a meal of whole brown rice or whole oats, sweet potato, and broccoli, and for a change, try protein rich quinoa and teff.
If your companion animal is accustomed to a fresh whole foods raw diet, stick with it, but keep in mind, that if your pet is undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments, cooked food is recommended for animals who are immune suppressed in any way. Whatever way you decide to feed your cancer patient, ensure that the diet is evaluated on a regular basis, always keeping your pet’s overall condition in mind. This is when a journal comes in handy.
Colour Your Pet’s World with the Brightest Fruits and Vegetables
Apples are a very rich source of vitamin C. They also contain potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium, iron, manganese, copper, zinc, vitamin A, folate, and vitamin E. Red Delicious, Northern Spy, and Ida Red apples, contain more potent disease fighting antioxidants than other red apples.
Blueberries and cranberries contain significant levels of resveratrol, a natural compound that has been found to have anti-cancer properties, and is also believed to reduce the risk of heart disease. Blueberries are a very rich source of antioxidants which come from anthocyanins, the pigments that give blueberries their deep blue colour.
Broccoli is a phyto nutrient dense member of the cruciferous family. It is one of the most important cancer fighting vegetables, containing at least three cancer protective biochemicals including sulforaphane, which supports the immune system. Broccoli contains lots of vitamin C and beta-carotene, as well as vitamins A and D. It is also a low glycemic vegetable, which means that it does not cause a rapid rise in blood glucose levels. Other members of the cruciferous family include Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, rutabagas, kohlrabi, bok choy, kale, Swiss Chard, collards, and turnips. Cooking cruciferous vegetables releases indole, a cancer fighting enzyme.
Cantaloupes belong to the same family as the cucumber, squash, and pumpkin. They are an excellent source of vitamin A, because of their very high concentration of beta-carotene. Cantaloupe is also a good source of vitamin B-6, vitamin C, fibre, folate, niacin, and potassium. Try giving your feline friend a little piece of cantaloupe with a dab of goat yogurt and a sprinkling of catnip.
Carrots are one of the kings of the vegetable patch. There are over 100 varieties, from deep purple and white to the brilliant orange we are most accustomed to seeing. Each is a storehouse of nutrient power. Carrots contain pro-vitamin A, also known as beta-carotene, vitamins B, C, D, E, and K, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, iron, magnesium, manganese, sulphur, copper, and iodine. They support the immune system, aid digestion, and are also recognized as a glandular tonic.
Green beans are an excellent source of vitamin A because of their concentration of carotenoids, including beta-carotene. They also contain vitamins C and K, calcium, copper, fibre, folic acid, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, protein, riboflavin, thiamin, and Omega 3 fatty acids.
Mangos are a good source of fibre and they also contain a small amount of protein. They have an excellent vitamin and mineral profile. Mangos contain potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, selenium, copper, zinc, and manganese. They are also rich in vitamins A, C, folate, and B-6.
Pomegranates are a rich source of ellagic acid and also contain anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins (flavonoids) that have demonstrated reduced tumour angiogenesis in a variety of studies. Pomegrante also has antibacterial and antiviral properties.
Pumpkin may be just what the doctor ordered, if your canine or feline companion is experiencing bouts of constipation or diarrhea. We all know how hard cancer treatment can be on our pets’ digestive systems. Pumpkin is a terrific stool softener, which makes it a perfect remedy for constipation, and since it is very rich in fibre, all you have to do is add 1 to 2 teaspoons to your pet’s food, as an effective remedy for diarrhea.
Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamin E. They also include an abundance of vitamins A, B-6, and C, calcium, iron, folate, potassium, copper, and thiamine. Sweet potatoes are a rich source of beta-carotene, which may be a significant factor in reducing the risk of certain cancers. They are also a good source of dietary fibre and help promote a healthy gastrointestinal tract.
Tomatoes have been shown to have the ability to lower the risk of some kinds of cancer. The secret to the tomato’s success is lycopene, the chemical that gives tomatoes their bright red colour. Cooked tomatoes contain more lycopene, because cooking breaks down the tomato’s cellular walls, allowing carotenoids to be more concentrated. To make tomatoes even more beneficial, add a little fat, like cold pressed virgin olive oil. This simple trick allows the lycopene to be even better absorbed into the body.
Watermelon contains 40% more lycopene than tomatoes!
A Cocktail for Cancer
Nobody has been able to put a cap on cancer yet, but every day, we are learning about new ways to support our animal companions. Dr. John Carter, a British veterinary surgeon and research scientist, created this cancer cocktail, after losing his own dog to cancer. Combine 8 ounces of raw chopped liver, e.g., beef, bison, chicken, 4 ounces of grated carrots, and 1/2 ounce of ground Brazil nuts, which are the richest source of natural selenium, and serve. This recipe can easily be pureéd in a food processor or blender, and served as a complete meal, or used as a topping for other meals.