DogCancer.TV: Cancer Cachexia and Dog Cancer- When Your Dog Won't Eat - Dog Cancer Blog

Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

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DogCancer.TV: Cancer Cachexia and Dog Cancer- When Your Dog Won’t Eat

Are you concerned about your dog’s lack of appetite? Dr. Dressler and Dr. Ettinger define cancer cachexia and discuss some ideas as to how you may deal with your dog’s  loss of appetite and vitality. Click play to learn more.

Transcript of: Cancer Cachexia and Dog Cancer- When Your Dog Won’t Eat

James Jacobson: Sometimes when the dog has cancer they just don’t wanna eat. There’s a word for this, It’s cancer cachexia, i think I’m saying that right Dr. Dressler? What are your thoughts on it and am I pronouncing it correctly?

Dr. Demian Dressler: Well, you are pronouncing it correctly. It’s something that happens usually in the later stages of cancer. What it represents that dog’s cancer is almost hijacking the metabolism that is due to the presence of chemical signals from cancer cells. What it does is it prevents the body from getting the carbohydrates and the fats, and the protein absorbed and process to support the body tissue. What the cancer chemicals do is they instead shift the body’s metabolism so that the body is now feeding the cancer as opposed to feeding itself.

James Jacobson: So, that sounds like a pretty serious situation because the dog doesn’t wanna eat.

Dr. Demian Dressler: Yeah, when you combined that with a lack of intake, caloric intake, we have this weight loss and that’s really what cachexia is, it’s the loss usually of muscle mass that’s connected with the cancer cells. now there is good news there because through some dietary modification that we talked about on the guide. Also, through the use of sometimes of increasing appetite with medication or sometimes supplements, all these things can help to offset the cancer cachexia.

James Jacobson: What are some of the things that you do in your practice Dr. Ettinger where the dog is presenting with cachexia?

Dr. Susan Ettinger: What’s interesting about cachexia is that it’s a pretty common for those pets to actually be eating well and often you can see cachexia in patients that are eating adequate number of calories but as Dr. Dressler said, their metabolism is so turned up that they’re still losing weight. So I think it’s important if you get them on a high quality diet, high fats and proteins. Then, if they are not interested in eating, it’s important to stimulate that appetite as well to try to boost that interest in eating.

James Jacobson: So, Dr. Dressler, what are some things you can do to stimulate that interest in eating?

Dr. Demian Dressler: Well, there’s certain pharmaceuticals which can be used to increase appetite. Newer ones are probably the most common is Mirtazapine. In the olden days we used to use different medications, different drugs. On the herbal side or “alternative” side, many times we use things like ginger which can help to soothe the stomach. Sometimes also a slippery elm which can help to soothe the intestine. On top of that, we have supplements like certain fatty acids which can help with cachexia and we wanna improve melatonin levels in the body through long sleeps. That’s something too that’s been showing at least in rodents and scientific studies like that to help with cachexia.

James Jacobson: There is help if your dog isn’t eating cause he has cancer cachexia. More information is available in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide. Dr. Dressler, Dr. Ettinger thank you so much.

Dr. Susan Ettinger & Dr. Demian Dressler: Thank you!

About the Author: Dog Cancer Vet Team


There is a whole team of dog lovers behind Dog Cancer Vet and DogCancerBlog.com, and we're here to help, because we understand what it's like to deal with dog cancer. We work for Maui Media, the book publisher which includes paperback and digital copies of the best-selling animal health book Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog's Life Quality and Longevity. This must-read book is available everywhere books are sold in paperback, and digital formats (iPad, Kindle, Nook). It is authored by our veterinarian bloggers Dr. Demian Dressler, and Dr. Susan Ettinger, DVM, ACVIM (Oncology).

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  • Linda Kaplan

    My 10 1/2 to 12+ yr old basenji (unsure of age as no documentation when we got him as a rescue) has a mass on one kidney discovered thru a basic ultrasound. (he had been urinating blood which prompted the vet visit) The mass is so large you can barely make out the kidney. His other kidney must be working at 100% as his urea nitrogen (19) creatinine (.8) and Bun/Creatine (24) are all within normal levels as is the rest of his blood work. He is alert and relatively active for himself. The problem is he is barely eating ( i started home cooking for him. At first he was thrilled but every day it gets worse with him not touching the food. He will go 1-2 days eating nothing than will eat maybe 1/2 of what he should and the cycle starts. Unfortunately further testing, and veterinary treatments are not possible due to financial restraints. Our vet put him on the Mitrazipine which seem to help somewhat we appetite stimulation but after 2 days on the meds he started having uncontrollable “head ticks”. We removed him, waited 2 days (no ticks) than reduced the dosage to 1/4 of a 15 mg pill. that day he had another head ticking episode. Do you have any suggestions to help stimulate his appetite? His spirit is good, but he is getting weaker an thinner as i can’t get food into him I fear his days are limited if we cant get calories and nutrition into him. do you have any suggestions as to anything that may stimulate his appetite.

  • Amber Drake

    Hello, Linda. Susan Harper wrote an article about how to get your dog to eat when his appetite is low. It’s really helpful, she has lots of ideas for you to try. The link can be found at https://www.dogcancerblog.com/cancer-treatments/nutrition/how-to-help-your-dog-with-cancer-when-he-wont-eat/. Sending cuddles to you and your Basenji.