Friday, December 9, 2011


By guest blogger Jodi Ziskin, Holistic Nutrition and Wellness Consultant for Cats and Dogs
Jodi Ziskin and Obi
When a dog or cat is chronically or terminally ill or simply recovering from surgery, getting them to eat can be a challenge.

There are many reasons for loss of appetite including (but not limited to):
  • Medications that cause queasiness in the tummy
  • Diseases of the digestive tract
  • Aches and pains that make it difficult to get up
  • Pain due to tooth decay or other oral diseases
This is, of course, both frustrating and heart breaking for pet parents. We know that our furry babies need nutrition and hydration to help them recover or for those who are nearing sunset, to make them feel as comfortable as possible for as long as possible.

In addition, pets who need to take meds with meals or on a full stomach simply must eat.

To Stimulate Appetite

Emu Oil - Yep, you read that correctly. The taste of emu oil is irresistible to most cats and dogs. It also contains a plethora of health benefits. The oil is rich in omega 3s (and other important essential fatty acids) and is anti-inflammatory. This is wonderful for pets with irritable bowel disease, arthritis, pancreatitis and more. Emu oil can also be used externally. It helps heal bites, hot spots, rashes and more. I suggested the Premiere Pure Oil by

Tuna Juice - The diluted juice poured over food can stimulate the appetite. I recommend the Whole Foods 365 brand of no salt added Wild Slip Jack. Simply drain the liquid from the can and dilute with the same amount of filtered water.

Dried one-ingredient freeze dried meat treats - Excellent options by Grandma Lucy's, Stella & Chewy's, Bravo and more. Pick your pet's favorite - tuna, salmon, bison, chicken, turkey, etc. Crumble a treat over food (and maybe even mix in).,, Each site provides information on retailers by zip code.


I always recommend adding a probiotic and digestive enzyme to each meal. The probiotic will help balance flora in the stomach, reduce bad bacteria and increase good bacteria in the gut, and will help strengthen the immune system. Digestive enzymes help break down the food, making it easier for your pet to digest and assimilate nutrients. One of my favorite products is a two-in-one by Animal Essentials called Plant Enzymes & Probiotics - Start by adding just a sprinkle to meals and working up to the recommended amounts for your pet's weight. This can take a few days.

Foods to start with

Plain organic full-fat yogurt - Yobaby by Stoneyfield Farm is wonderful. It is creamy, cool and provides protein, fats, calcium and some probiotic. This is often a great first step in stimulating the appetite.
- For cats or small dogs, start with 1/2 tsp a few times per day. For large dogs, offer a tablespoon at a time.

Homemade Broth - Do not use canned or broth from cartons. Most of these contain onions, which can be poisonous to dogs and cats, MSG, too much sodium or other unsavory ingredients. Instead, make your own (you can eat this, too).
Simmer chicken (skinless, but with bones), preferably dark meat, along with carrots, kale, zucchini, parsley and a dash of sea salt for about an hour. Skim the broth so there are no solids left. Let cool and offer to your pet. Let them have as much as they want.

Next Step

Scrambled Egg - Scramble an egg with some organic butter.
  • Once cooled, mix in half of it with a teaspoon of the aforementioned yogurt for cats or small dogs or the whole egg with a tablespoon of yogurt for larger dogs. Not only is this a nutritionally dense meal, it is easy to digest and assimilate.
  • If your pet does not like yogurt, serve with the broth.

As Appetite Increases

Chicken and brown rice *- This will take a little time to prepare, but it will stay fresh in the fridge for up to four days. I recommend using organic or at least hormone and antibiotic-free boneless, skinless thighs. Heat up coconut, sunflower or olive oil in a pan on medium heat. Add 1/4 cup of filtered water and 1/2 pound of the chicken. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through. For the rice, cook with twice as much water as the directions call for. This will make it mushy and more palatable.
  • Empty the chicken and all the liquid into a blender and pulse until the mixture reaches a pate consistency.
  • For cats, just add 1/4 cup of the rice; for dogs, 1/2 - 1 cup of rice.
  • Although cats cannot digest grains, adding rice to the chicken will help slow down the digestion process, making it easier on the whole system.

Grandma Lucy's Simple Remedy * - Quick and easy. Just add water.

*Please note: these suggestions are for temporary feeding only. For nutritionally balanced, species appropriate recipes, please work with a vet or pet nutrition expert.

Other Suggestions
 ·        For very weak cats and dogs, you may need to initiate feedings by using a dropper or syringe (needle-free, of course) or spoon feed
·        For mobile pets, be sure their feeding station is higher than their stomachs. This will improve digestion
·        Most cats do not like to eat out of bowls - a plate is preferred
·        Make sure there is plenty of filtered water available at all times - rinse out bowls and refill at least two times per day

Jodi Ziskin is a Holistic Nutrition & Wellness Consultant for cats and dogs. She is a Certified Pet Nutrition Consultant who also holds a Master of Science degree in Holistic Nutrition with a concentration in companion animal care. Jodi's mission is to help cats and dogs live healthier and happier. She coaches pet parents in their home environment, via Skype or by telephone on how to make the best holistic diet and lifestyle choices for their animal companions. Visit


  1. My CoCo (9yo male Siberian Husky) is currently dealing with acute pancreatitis...5 days post-attack. He is able to keep liquids down and a bland diet of boiled white rice (made with electrolyte solution) w/tuna juice BUT is still having abdominal pain and bright yellow, greasy bits of diarrhea. I would like to try him on Emu oil. Does anyone have any practical experiences with it and acute pancreatitis? Thanks much!

  2. Hi CoCo's mom. This is tricky because my gut reaction to treating pancreatitis with any form of oil is 'NO'! Pancreatitis can be caused by a fatty diet so it's kind of counter-intuitive. But we try to keep an open mind and below is an abstract from a paper published on using it. But in a nut shell - there has not been good evidence to prove it will help. Keep in mind that pancreatitis is definitely painful and it may take some time for that inflammation to be under control and that CoCo stops feeling painful.

    My blink response to this is to not try it. In my humble opinion. :)

    Dr. Mary

    J Gastroenterol Hepatol. May 2012;27(5):857-61.
    Suzanne M Abimosleh1; Cuong D Tran; Gordon S Howarth
    1Department of Gastroenterology, Women's and Children's Hospital, North Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.
    ? 2012 Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology Foundation and Blackwell Publishing Asia Pty Ltd.

    Article Abstract
    Gastrointestinal diseases characterized by inflammation, including the inflammatory bowel diseases, chemotherapy-induced mucositis and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug-induced enteropathy, currently have variably effective treatment options, highlighting the need for novel therapeutic approaches. Recently, naturally-sourced agents including prebiotics, probiotics, plant-extracts and marine-derived oils known to possess anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties have been investigated in vitro and in vivo. However, animal-derived oils are yet to be extensively tested. Emu Oil is extracted from the subcutaneous and retroperitoneal fat of the Emu, a flightless bird native to Australia, and predominantly comprises fatty acids. Despite the limited rigorous scientific studies conducted to date, with largely anecdotal claims, Emu Oil, when administered topically and orally, has been shown to possess significant anti-inflammatory properties in vivo. These include a CD-! 1 mouse model of croton oil-induced auricular inflammation, experimentally-induced polyarthritis and dextran sulfate sodium-induced colitis. Recently, Emu Oil has been demonstrated to endow partial protection against chemotherapy-induced mucositis, with early indications of improved intestinal repair. Emu Oil could therefore form the basis of an adjunct to conventional treatment approaches for inflammatory disorders affecting the gastrointestinal system.

  3. I agree with Mary, I'd stay away from any oils during acute pancreatitis, as beneficial as they may be in their own right. It may be more helpful in long term management due to its omega 3 action, but the best thing for acute pancreatitis is aggressive pain medication, stomach protection with acid reducers and medications that can help coat the stomach lining, antinausea medications (ex cerenia, ondansetron, etc), and bland diet.

    Low fat diet (very low fat like Royal Canin low-fat diet or low fat Hill's I/D-the new version) for life is beneficial, and I'd still worry about adding additional oils to the diet. I keep my patients on chronic acid reducers and pro/prebiotics.

  4. Sorry, I forgot to mention...ask your vet about cerenia- it's great for nausea and has great anti-inflammatory effects.

  5. Thank you for your speedy replies, Mary & Brad. CoCo is our first sibe to take us on this journey and I have to admit that it has been rather mind-boggling. His ups & downs over the past week and the persistence of the bright yellow diarrhea have us questioning everything, including the meds he is on and the amount of bland diet he is being fed. Any information is most welcome because as I have been told by our vet, 100% diagnosis of pancreatitis is really very iffy unless via gastric exploratory or biopsy. Obviously this is not recommended.

    I am concerned that we may be introducing the bland diet to soon or too much or the wrong combo of carbs/proteins or even meds. He has a good day with his temperature holding steady at a lower level (38'C to 39'C-ish) and has an appetite, but the following morning he is uncomfortable, refusing to eat and his temp has risen again (40'C-ish). Since the initial attack (7½ days ago) he has persistent yellow diarrhea. It was more solid this morning but still yellow. He has been on and off boiled white rice (made with electrolyte solution), tuna juice (from tuna in water), and non-fat, natural yogurt....spaced out in small amounts every 2 hours with a total day amount being 2 cups of the rice concoction. He is on 25mg Ranitidine twice/day, 480mg Sulfatrim twice/day and Tramadol as needed.

    Is it normal to have a good day, followed by a bad day? I am concerned of the ups & downs of the acute phase and if this is damaging his pancreas. Is there a chance that he has gone from the acute stage right into EPI or SIBO?

    FYI, CoCo is a very healthy (normally), athletic & trim working dog. With a weekend full of guests and a deep-fried turkey being served up, we believe that someone fed him a treat of deep-fried turkey skin :(

    Poor fella. Thank you for any insight or info you can share. BTW, we live off-grid, out in the boonies of Canada and our local vet is out of the country on holiday now....figures!

  6. Hi again - sorry that I haven't answered sooner but I have been traveling.

    Pancreatitis is difficult and there isn't too much info I can give since he is not a patient of mine. But a bland - nofat diet with good pain meds is paramount. So I would stick to that. It's difficult because you are off grid and your vet is out of town - but the rice and chicken is probably the best thing you can do at this time. And then when he recovers - slowly introduce other low fat ingredients to the mix :)


  7. My 12 year old lab is suffering from Ascities. The cause has been undetermined even though we have had blood tests, spleen sample next step would be biopsy of internal organs which we are not going to put her through. Understand we are on borrowed time but would like her to eat something to keep her strength up. Do you think the EMU oil might get her interested on some snacks?

    1. Arthur Davis, Hi there. I have a 13 year old Chines Crested (Spuds) with protein loosing entropathy with Ascities who is picky about food. He has been on RC Venison wet and dry along with medication. Hi appetite varies and he would rather eat cat food. I am wondering if you have tried a novel protein such as the one we are using and if you have used the Emu oil to help stimulate appetite for the right foods. Spuds will eat carrots, sweet potatoes willingly but often balks at his RC food. I hope your lab is feeling better.


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