Diet For Cats With Cancer

Cats are known as finicky eaters. Even when they are in optimal health, many tend to be picky about their diets, turning their back on foods that are just not interesting enough. When a cat is diagnosed with cancer, getting him or her to eat can be even more challenging. Yet at the same time, it becomes more important than ever not only for a cat to eat but to consume a diet with the best nutritional mix possible.

Determining exactly what that diet is can be confusing — unless you consult with your veterinarian (or a board-certified oncologist or nutritionist, if they are involved in your cat’s treatment). Expertise and familiarity with your cat’s case matter, because when it comes to what to feed cats with cancer, there isn’t a one-menu-fits-all answer.

If you are starting out by doing your own research, you likely will find some common online suggestions. However, they don’t consider all of the factors that might apply to your cat’s specific type of cancer and current condition. Your cat’s cancer treatment team not only has that information but also can conduct nutritional assessments, custom design a diet for your cat and make any necessary adjustments as treatment continues.

Why a Special Diet For Cats With Cancer Might Be Needed

Many types of feline cancer are associated with a loss of appetite. That can be problematic, as a cat undergoing cancer treatment needs strength, energy and a strong immune system during his or her cancer journey. The right nutritional mix can help your cat fare better while faced with the challenges that cancer and cancer treatment may bring. Additionally, if symptoms of your cat’s cancer weren’t immediately obvious and he or she has had cancer for a while, then his or her overall health may already have been impacted. One example: Cancer can lead to cachexia, a loss of lean body mass and fat stores. Fortunately, that can potentially be prevented or reversed with the right mix of nutrients in a customized diet plan.

What to Know About “Cancer Diets”

Doing your own research for the best diet for cats with cancer can result in information overload. There’s a lot out there. The question is, which information is fact and which is fiction? Since cats typically love meat and are already getting protein, one common suggestion about a “cancer diet” is to increase the amount of fat that a cat consumes. Fat is high in calories that are needed for additional energy. So, that could in fact help, especially in cases where there already has been weight loss. However, consuming more fat might not be beneficial for every cat’s particular situation. If a cat is already obese, for instance, adding fat can be detrimental to his or her general health and could compromise the response to cancer therapy. For cats in this situation, sticking to their regular diet might achieve the better outcome.

Supplements and Homemade Cat Food For Cancer

If you decide it’s best to prepare a homemade diet for your cat because it gives you control of ingredient selection, you should still consult with a vet over which foods to choose. Determining which diet has the right mix of nutrients for your cat should not be guesswork. Furthermore, there can be risks you may not have thought about. For instance, many cats relish raw meats or raw shrimp — and the inclination to provide more protein might lead you to feed your cat more of these. But keep in mind that pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella can sometimes be found in uncooked meats. Check with your vet about the risk, because if your cat’s immune system has been compromised by cancer, radiation, or chemotherapy, then infection with one of these bacteria can be life-threatening.

Similarly, check with your cat’s cancer treatment team if you are curious about giving your cat supplements. There are some legitimate supplements that are supported by science, but the sales of others relies more on slick marketing than proven efficacy. There can also be negative interactions specific to your cat’s case, in particular related to diet and recommended cancer treatment.

Nutritional Assessments

Veterinarians conduct nutritional assessments to help determine diet recommendations for cats, including during cancer treatment. Assessments are common and can be fairly simple. Your vet likely will ask some questions about what your cat has been eating, while also doing a visual exam and palpation (feeling your cat’s body). The information your vet compiles includes:

  • The cat’s weight
  • A body condition score, based on evaluating lean body mass and fat stores
  • A muscle condition score, based on muscle mass, so muscle loss can be detected
  • Diet history, including meals, treats, supplements and anything used to persuade your cat to take his or her medication

These factors are typically enough to help a veterinarian decide whether to modify your cat’s diet. Assessments should continue throughout treatment so additional adjustments can be made.

Tips for Feeding a Finicky Cat

Knowing what to feed your cat after a cancer diagnosis is one thing. Getting him or her to eat can be another. Cats may become even more finicky and display no appetite during a cancer journey for several reasons. He or she may just not feel well. If your cat is nauseated or has been vomiting and associates this with eating, that could be detrimental to his or her appetite. Some types of cancer or cancer treatment might also impact a cat’s sense of smell, reducing the appeal of food. Additionally, if a cat has undergone radiation that targets the neck or head, a mouth ulcer might develop, or saliva production could be impacted. An oral tumor also could make it more difficult to eat.

To encourage eating, you might have to modify how food is presented, whether it involves your cat’s regular foods or a vet-recommended change. For instance, add warm water to dry food to soften it. Alternatively, canned cat foods are already moist. You can get a vet to recommend a selection of the best canned cat food for cats with cancer. Here are a few other suggestions:

  • Enhance the food’s aroma by warming it
  • Add the juice from a tuna pouch or can for better flavor
  • Praise your cat while eating to encourage that behavior
  • Feed multiple small meals each day
  • Ask your vet about appetite stimulants

Learn More About PetCure Oncology Treatments

In addition to feeding your cat the most nutritious diet possible, getting expert veterinary advice about available treatment options will give your cat have the best possible chance of a good outcome. PetCure Oncology specializes in treating cancer. We offer a range of treatment options, including technologically advanced stereotactic radiation. To learn more about our treatments and our commitment to compassionate care, find a location near you and reach out today.

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