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If your furry pal is undergoing cancer treatment, whether chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of treatment modalities, they’re likely not feeling their best. Perk up your pet’s zest for life again with engaging enrichment activities, while keeping a close eye on how they are feeling. Depending on their cancer type and treatment form, they may feel nauseous, weak, or otherwise uncomfortable, so always monitor your pet, and call it quits if a certain activity becomes too much to handle. Above all, we want you and your pet to experience the best quality of life possible, rather than packing in so many adventures that your pet is miserable. However, playing and interacting with your furry companion can help boost their mood and make them feel like their old self. Try the following seven enrichment ideas to engage your pet in delightful diversions.

#1: Create a bucket list for your pet

Although commonly considered a list made solely for rapidly declining pets with a terminal illness, a bucket list of favorite activities can be good for pets with treatable cancers or who may enter remission. You may be tempted to include new, exciting adventures on their list, but keep in mind that your furry pal may be weary or uncomfortable and may not appreciate new activities. Instead, stick to tried-and-true favorites, like a trip through a Starbucks drive-thru for a puppacino. If your pal enjoys socializing and investigating new sights and smells, try this bucket list for Houston dogs—remembering to closely monitor your pooch’s energy and comfort levels.

#2: Use puzzle feeders instead of a food dish

If your best friend does little more than eat and lounge on the couch with you, invigorate their mental health with a variety of puzzle food toys. Eating from a food dish is boring, and many pets enjoy a food puzzle challenge. For pets on a canned-food diet, or those who enjoy peanut butter, yogurt, or tuna treats, try a LickiMat. These wet food items can also be mixed with dry kibble and stuffed into a rubber Kong for a long-lasting meal, or you can fill a Kong Wobbler with plain kibble for a fun toy your pet can chase and roll around.

#3: Play scent games with your pet

Dogs rely heavily on scent, and although cats are less in-tune with their nose, both can enjoy scent games or nose work. Sniffing has been shown to reduce a dog’s heart rate and promote relaxation, which is ideal for pets undergoing cancer treatment. Invest in a long leash—not a retractable leash, as those put pressure on your dog’s neck—and explore the nearest park or hiking trail. At home, hide tasty treats around a room for your pet to sniff and seek. 

#4: Include your pet in family activities

Pets want nothing more than to spend time with their families, unless they are feeling ill from their cancer type or treatment. They likely still want to be included in the general family hubbub, and would enjoy a cozy bed placed in a corner of the room where they can be with their favorite people. When possible, include your pet in your family outings, such as picnics, hikes, and long car rides, but only if they enjoy such activities.

#5: Choose novel ways to be active with your pet

After your pet has been diagnosed with cancer, or is undergoing treatment, you may want to care for them as if they were made of glass, snuggling up on the couch instead of your usual activities. Although your four-legged friend may feel slightly under the weather, daily exercise is a must for mental and physical health. When hiking, jogging, or playing with your pet, let them set the pace, keeping a close eye on their energy and comfort level.

#6: Teach your pet new tricks

You can teach an old dog—and cat—new tricks. Arm yourself with tasty treats and a clear idea of what you’d like to teach your pet, and you can shape or capture new behaviors. Trick training is an excellent way to keep your pet’s mind sharp and further strengthen your bond.  

#7: Invest in interactive toys for your pet

Despite never wishing to leave your pet’s side after a cancer diagnosis, they will have to be home alone on occasion. Let your pal have some fun with a new interactive toy. Great options include robotic mice for cats, a ball launcher for dogs, or an automatic treat dispenser paired with a camera for both. 

Your pet may be undergoing cancer treatment, but you can still find activities they will enjoy. However, if they seem to be struggling with pain, nausea, or general weakness, contact your Pearland Animal Cancer and Referral Center team for assistance.