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Please note that I'm a pet parent sharing my experience with my dog who was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma. I am not a veterinarian and nothing in this blog post should be used to diagnose your dog. Please use this information to become familiar with the symptoms of this cancer and one pet parent's treatment plan. It's important that you work closely with your vet on the care of your dog.
My dog has cancer and there are some days when she's just not feeling well. When I'm not feeling great, whether it's due to pain, a cold, or an upset tummy, I'm not in the mood to eat, and having someone put food in my face doesn't make a difference. So I had to figure out how to get Sydney to eat (to keep up her strength while her body fights the cancer).
In this post, I'm going to share a few things I've done to get Sydney to eat her food and I hope that this gives you some ideas to help your dog. But first, check out this blog post about giving dogs slippery elm to learn about how to calm nausea. I also gave Sydney phosphorus 30c that helped to stop the bleeds and curb nausea and diarrhea.
What I Do When My Dog Won't Eat Her Food
1 – Take a Break from the Herbs and Supplements
When I learned that Sydney had cancer and discovered the Facebook group, I immediately began researching what herbs and supplements could slow the spread of the cancer, reduce the size of the tumors, and more. I didn't think I could cure her cancer, but I did think that I could improve the quality of her life while extending her life. I made a list of all of the herbs and supplements I was adding to her diet and threw them all at her. It didn't occur to me to gradually add these to her diet to make sure she could tolerate them – nope, I threw it all at her and was shocked when she began turning away from her food.
Sydney wouldn't eat anything that smelled like something that made her sick the day previous. She also has the most amazing nose and even green tripe couldn't hide the smell of herbs in her meals. She also became adept at feeling out capsules in her meals and spitting them out. So I took the supplements off the menu and took a break for a week.
I've been slowly adding Sydney's supplements back into her diet starting with a pinch of one for a few days, then two supplements, up to three. The only supplement Sydney gets daily is the Yunnan Baiyao, which stops bleeds. I no longer mix her herbs and supplements into her food.
2 – Feed on a Flat (Flatish) Surface
A friend of mine told once told me that feeding out of a dog dish isn't ideal because the scent of the food becomes overwhelming to a dog and, if a dog is feeling nauseous, the scent can turn them off of the food. Some people will feed their dogs from a cutting board or another flat surface; I purchased a few pasta bowls that were on sale at our local grocery store and feed Sydney from those bowls now. They allow me to add a few things to a bowl, keeping them separate so that Sydney can pick what she wants to eat.
I usually feed Sydney from two different pasta bowls, allowing space to add a few things for her consider. It may seem like a lot of extra work, but when she started eating, I was happy to add an extra step to meal times.
3 – Feed by Hand / Spoon Feed
Feeding by hand is another thing that I've done to get Sydney to eat. I don't pressure her or put the food in her mouth, instead, I allow her to see that the food isn't laced with supplements and she's able to sniff and examine one thing at a time. I try not to do this too much, but it does help on days when Sydney is recovering from a bleed or is feeling too tired to walk to her bowl, but I know that she's hungry (she's drooling, licking her lips, and showing an interest in food).
Some may think that this is spoiling our dogs, however, it's important to remember that we're dealing with a dog that has cancer, isn't feeling great, and isn't eating. So ignore the Judgy McJudgersons and put some food in your hand.
4 – Don't Feed the Meal / Fast for a Day
As hard as it is, when Sydney doesn't want to eat, then I don't feed her. It's tempting to beg Sydney to eat or let her eat a ton of random foods, but I've learned to follow her lead. If her first instinct is not to eat, then I'll offer her the food twice and then I leave her alone. If she does show interest in something random, I only allow her to have a small amount because if her tummy is upset, I'm going to see a pile of that random food on my carpet (why do they always look for carpet?) within an hour.
Fasting is actually good for dogs. I know that it sounds like the worst thing to do when a dog is sick, but I think of the times when I have an upset tummy, not eating does me a world of good. So I don't push Sydney to eat and wait until she's ready to eat. So far, she's fasted for a day a few times. It's never more than a day and one she's feeling better, she starts eating with gusto so I'm not worried about a lack of nutrients or calories.
5 – Cook Food Instead of Feeding Raw
If feeding raw isn't working, then try cooking for your dog.
I started by cooking ground chicken, beef, and turkey (separately) and Sydney showed an interest. A friend was kind enough to formulate a cooked meal for Sydney. I had to adjust it a little because I didn't have access to all of the ingredients, but I didn't go too far off the recipe. I tossed the following into a pressure cooker for 20 minutes, mixed up, and allowed to cool. Sydney loved it.
- 7 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 pound beef organ blend (includes beef hearts, liver, and kidneys)
- 1 bundle of fresh spinach
- 1/2 can of canned pumpkin (100% pumpkin, no spices)
- 4 eggs, including shells
- 4 heaping tablespoons of coconut oil
- 2 tbsp of chia seeds
- 2 tbsp of organic kelp
Raw Goat's Milk and Bone Broth
You may be reading this and thinking that I should have fed her raw goat's milk or bone broth. She wasn't interested because she associated these foods with the supplements. There were a lot of foods that were off the menu for a period of time until she stopped associating it with the herbs and supplements. I hope that she is able to at least enjoy raw goat's milk and kefir again soon. I offer it to her a couple of times a week with no pressure but so far she's not interested.
Ultimately, my goal is to get my girl to eat because she needs the nutrients to give her the strength to live with cancer. If I can only get her to do one thing, then I want her to eat. If you're going through something similar, don't give up. This takes a lot of patience and creativity. And there are days when I wish Sydney could just TELL me how she's feeling and what she wants to eat, and, in her own way, she is communicating – I just need to listen.