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PetPourri: Can Canines Go Keto?

Fad or Foe

By Ashlee Verba

Whether you’re on social media, follow the latest health and dietary trends, or even take an interest in pop culture you’ve probably heard some buzz about the ketogenic diet, a high-fat/low-carb diet that produces some serious weight loss results when followed correctly. And, in the same way raw and gluten-free diets have trickled over into the canine world, it prompts the question of whether the keto diet could be yet another dietary trend going to the dogs. Here’s what we know.

Developed in the 1920s to treat human epilepsy, the purpose of the diet is to get the body into a state of ketosis, wherein it breaks down fat for energy rather than sugar and produces ketones, an acid obtained by the liver and used to fuel the body’s various systems. As it applies to dogs, the keto diet has been cited as beneficial for weight management, brain function, and preventing diseases like diabetes, epilepsy and cancer. But it’s not without risk and requires keen attention to what goes in their bellies.

The Percentages

Unlike some raw and grain-free options, keto diets aren’t widely manufactured, which means it’s up to you to provide the balance they need to achieve and maintain ketosis. This diet goes against everything we’re initially taught as pet owners, which is that you want a high percentage of lean protein with minimal fat. With keto, the recommended macro ratio is 70% fat, 25% protein and 5% complex carbs (like leafy greens). It sounds simple, but it might be trickier than you think to provide such an abundance of healthy fats while maintaining the balance and consistency needed to keep your dog in a state of ketosis. Fatty fish, muscle meats, offals (organ meats), cheese, leafy greens like spinach, cabbage or collard greens, and vegetables like carrots, cauliflower, zucchini and cucumbers are a few recommended ingredients, giving you a glimpse into how costly maintaining a ketogenic diet might become.

Keto Pros

The transition to full ketosis may take up to a couple of weeks, but once achieved, your dog may have better energy levels that are sustained throughout the day rather than spikes of energy and rest. It brings dogs back to a more primitive diet which is easier to process and derive energy from than high-carb processed kibble.

Perhaps the most notable benefit to a ketogenic diet for pets is its use in cancer treatment and prevention. Since cancer feeds off sugar, the cells cannot thrive and multiply when carbohydrates and sugars aren’t present in the body.  A study published in the US National Library of Medicine showed that the use of a keto diet in humans had considerable anti-tumor effects in cases of prostate, colon, breast, lung, pancreatic, liver, brain and stomach cancers. But not just humans have seen positive results; a non-profit organization called KetoPet was developed as a sanctuary for dogs with terminal cancer. According to their website, 55% of the terminal pet patients they received are still alive and living far beyond their original prognosis of mere weeks–some are even cancer free. They don’t call it a cure, but their experience with ketogenic diets continues to be a positive one.

A study published by American Veterinarian found that the keto diet was also beneficial in treating seizures in dogs. Of 21 dogs in the trial, three became seizure-free, and another seven experienced at least a 50% drop in seizure frequency. There are various theories as to why this particular diet aids in seizure prevention, ranging from high blood sugar being a trigger to ketones producing changes in the metabolism and, thus, having an anticonvulsant effect.

Keto Cons

Maintaining ketosis in your pet’s body requires ample discipline and consistency from you as an owner and, like any ‘extreme’ diet, keto isn’t without its downsides. Aside from being considerably more expensive, it’s difficult to provide balance and avoid nutritional deficiencies in your pet. Additionally, you are responsible for making all of their meals and don’t have the convenience of grabbing a store-bought option when you’re in a pinch or going out of town. It’s imperative to do your research and include the necessary nutritional supplements that pre-made dog food already provides.

While their body figures out where to derive its energy, pets can suffer from “keto flu” when first starting out. Mostly categorized by fatigue, keto flu is a temporary and normal part of the transition but can cause some pain and discomfort for your pet, begging the question of if it is necessary for their overall health.

Due to its high fat content, one of the bigger risks of a ketogenic diet is pancreatitis. While treatable, inflammation in the pancreas is uncomfortable and can result in death if untreated. Symptoms of pancreatitis include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, fatigue and increased heart rate. The best way to prevent pancreatitis is a low-fat diet, which keto is not. Again, prompting the question of risk vs. reward.

So, is the ketogenic diet right for your dog? Of course, that’s completely up to you. If your pet suffers from scary seizures or you’re looking for a different, pain-free cancer treatment, talk with your veterinarian and do your own research to ensure you can do it correctly and consistently.  If you are simply looking for a new way to drop your pet’s weight or increase their energy, consider the pros and cons; know that a high fat diet isn’t for every


body and may wreak more havoc on their system than good. While both the scientific facts and anecdotal success stories are certainly out there, nobody can decide what’s best for your pet except you. Suffice to say, this may be one trend we won’t see on the #petsofinstagram page.


Getting Keto Right

The toughest part of feeding your dog Keto style is getting the macros and food proportions correct.  Here’s where to look to help you get Keto right!

Ketopetsanctuary.com – provides a wealth of information on Keto for pets.  Here’ you’ll find a Keto Diet Calculator where you input your dog’s weight, body type, activity level, whether you want to make the food yourself – wherein you’ll choose your fat, protein, and veggie – or purchase food. They’ll email you all the information you need to get started. 

Topdogtips.com/ketogenic-dog-food-recipe/- shares a few different recipes that include the calorie content and measurements for specific sized dogs, from a 70 pound German Shepherd to a 15 pound dachshund.

Breedingbusiness.coma quick search for “Keto” on this site provides guidelines, pros and cons, and even a Keto diet food pyramid.  They outline acceptable ingredients while highlighting what not to feed your pet. 

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