Saturday, April 16, 2011

Preventing Weight Loss During Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy sometimes makes a patient sick. Unfortunately, it is in the nature of the treatment to maim and kill cells, hopefully more cancer cells than normal ones. But cells of the GI tract are often sensitive to the effects of chemotherapy, and cancer patients sometimes experience nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Weight loss during cancer therapy is extremely common because patients either feel ill, cannot keep their food down, or cannot smell or taste it well. Significant weight loss is a poor prognostic indicator, at least in people, and presumably in pets as well. If you were to check out the web pages of major cancer centers such as M.D. Anderson in Texas, you'd find multiple references on how to maintain your weight during chemotherapy and radiation treatment. My personal belief is that we need to try just as hard in canine and feline cancer patients.

Recently, one of my favorite patients developed cancer and his owner, an animal behaviorist, decided to start chemo. We discussed the challenges of maintaining his appetite and body weight, and using her comprehensive knowledge of animal behavior, she made certain he lost very little weight indeed.

It involved alot of thought, and use of principles that most of us may not be familiar with or just don't consider putting into practice. I was so encouraged by her success that I asked her to share her methods. If your dog or cat has cancer, whether undergoingg treatment or not, you may want to check it out:

Thanks a million to Allison Martin for sharing her insights, and to Brody for inspiring her!