Ketogenic Diets for Dogs

What is a Ketogenic Diet?

To survive in varied conditions, the body requires the ability to utilize more than one form of “cell food” or energy.  One form of energy is Glucose, which stores in muscle tissues and burns quickly. The other is ketones, which are produced by the liver when the body metabolizes fat.  Ketones are more sustaining and are the Central Nervous System’s preferential form of fuel.

Ketosis, established through increased dietary fat and decreased dietary carbohydrate intake, provides an assortment of metabolic benefits. Fats and Fibers do not require the body to secrete insulin to metabolize them, while carbohydrates and proteins do. It is this metabolic benefit that has led scientists to develop a clearer understanding of the Ketogenic Diet and its benefits for health.

 

“A ketogenic diet is any nutritional program that can be validated to induce nutritional ketosis, via twice daily measurement of blood ketones and glucose, described by a blood glucose consistently below 75mg/dL and blood ketones consistently above 0.3mmol.”  – Daniel Orrego

 

Who might benefit from a Ketogenic Diet?

  • Cancer – Some studies evidence that due to the mitochondrial abnormalities in cancer cells they are unable to utilize ketones as a fuel source, and that ketones may actually be toxic to cancer cells. Eliminating glucose-rich foods, such as carbohydrates, from the diet may therefore also eliminate cancer’s food source. While some cell cultures suggest that ketones can be used as a fuel source by cancer cells, scientists have confirmed that ketones are less efficient energy sources for cancer cells, thus being more likely to starve them than glucose. KetoPet Sanctuary research studies show that ketogenic diets slow tumor growth and increase survival time by 57%. Ketones have also been shown to reduce the effects of radiation on blood and bone marrow by as much as 50%.
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  • Seizures, Traumatic Brain Injury & Neurodegenerative Diseases – High-fat diets have been proven to improve oxygen efficiency & significantly decrease seizure activity. Ketones are used as a preferential source of energy by the brain, making them neuroprotective. Ketogenic Diets have been used successfully in intractable Pediatric Seizure patients for over a hundred years.
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  • Diabetes (Type II) – Decreasing the consumption of insulin demanding foods, such as carbohydrates and proteins – and replacing them with fats and fibers which do not require insulin, obviously decreases insulin requirements, thus regulating the condition. Type II diabetics are able to secrete insulin from the pancreas, but insulin signaling is impaired meaning cells don’t respond to it. This is also known as insulin resistance. To compensate for insulin resistance, the beta cells of the pancreas secrete more and more insulin, often ineffectively, to manage blood glucose levels, which results in more glucose in the bloodstream… thus… type II diabetes. Several studies show that low-carb diets mimic fasting in regard to insulin and glucose levels. Even when full ketosis was not reached, human studies showed that a carb-free diet was effective at reducing or eliminating the need for diabetic medications in 77% of patients.

*Type I Diabetics benefit from diets with decreased carbohydrate load but may not benefit from a ketogenic diet (work with a Veterinary Nutritionist before attempting a Ketogenic Diet on a pet with Diabetes Insipidus). 

  • Heart Diseases – Cardiac tissues demand a lot of energy, which is exacerbated by insulin resistance. Studies show that even in severely failing hearts, ketones can provide an alternative source of fuel to the heart, improving cardiac efficiency.
  • Kidney Disease – By providing the kidneys with ketones as a primary energy source, the burden to metabolize protein is markedly decreased, thus decreasing the burden on the kidneys. Also, a systemic side effect of kidney disease is inflammation, which is reduced in ketosis.
  • Body Composition Optimization – Studies show that even with increased caloric intake, a ketogenic diet will optimize body composition by decreasing appetite, regulating insulin levels and teaching the body to preferentially burn fats, including its own, over glucose.

 

What products can you use if you’re feeding a Ketogenic Diet to your pet? :

MINERALS and INCREASED WATER CONSUMPTION: Every gram of glycogen stored (from Carbohydrate consumption) gains you 2.7+ grams of water. A carb-restricted diet eliminates retained water and insulin in the body, thus increasing water consumption.  This water loss also flushes minerals. Your pet should drink and urinate more on a ketogenic diet, at least initially. Also, without appropriate mineral supplementation the body is likely to develop the “keto flu” or nausea, headaches, constipation and lack of mental clarity.

REQUIRED: mineral-rich Bone Broth -

Salt – Sodium helps the body regulate water levels, blood pressure, and pH balance. Adding Bone Broth and/or Salt (iodized or other) will assist the body in maintaining proper internal water levels.

Magnesium – Magnesium helps maintain normal nerve and muscle function, heart rate, healthy immunity, regulates blood glucose levels and aids in energy production.

Potassium – Potassium also helps maintain pH balance, build proteins, sustain normal growth, and control electrical activity of the heart.

 

REQUIRED – ONE OR A MIXTURE OF THE FOLLOWING:

A proper ketogenic diet includes more fats than protein or carbs.  Fat consumption should be between 70-90% of the diet (higher for more significant disease states).  In most cases, even raw diets contain more protein than fat. Again, protein causes insulin secretions and may prevent ketosis if fed in excess. To get your pet into nutritional ketosis, a source of high-quality fat (remember fat holds toxins so you want a good, clean one) is a necessary supplement to the diet.

Coconut Oil – 1 tbsp = 15g Fat, 0g Protein, 130kcals

Lard – (average) 1 tbsp = 14g Fat, 0g Protein, 130kcals

Ghee or Grass-fed Butter – 1 tsp = 3g Fat, 0g Protein, 45kcals

*Cooked fats, such as those found in processed foods such as kibble or those heated at home, have been shown to contribute to pancreatitis.  Do not use cooked fats, products high in Omega-6 or products high in Poly-unsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA’s)

 

IF YOU’RE GIVING CBD: CBD is lipophilic and is therefore more potent when dosed with high-fat foods or supplements such as the ones listed above or bone marrow (chews). You may consider decreasing your CBD dosing if your pet is acting more sedate than normal after increasing dietary fat.

 

FOOD PRODUCTS:

Kure (Raw) – 31% Fat, 41% Protein (with added fat source)

Kure Meat Only (Raw) – Pork = 41% Fat, 31% Protein, or Beef or Chicken = 47% Fat, 47% Protein

Small Batch (Raw) (meat only) – Lamb = 19% Fat, 17% Protein, Duck = 16% Fat, 16% Protein (add fat)

PetKind Duck (canned) – 33% Fat, 31% Protein

 

Can you feed dry food and get your pet into ketosis? The short answer is no. Binding ingredients in kibble products, whether grain-free or not, are high in carbohydrates/glucose and anti-nutrients (lectins, phytates, trypsin-inhibitors - which inflame the pancreas.)  These ingredients will unavoidably increase your pet’s glycogen stores and insulin dependence. Even if your pets kibble contains low glycemic, low carbohydrate binders such as peas, a true ketogenic diet contains 70-90% fat whereas kibbles that claim to be ketogenic are 17% carbohydrate, 16% fat and 46% protein.  Protein also causes insulin spikes, thus preventing ketosis.  Even high protein diets will prevent ketosis and its benefits.  You might be asking, ‘what if I add fat to my pets’ dry kibble?’ Oxidized phospholipids (oxPLs) accumulate at sites of inflammation and are involved in a wide range of inflammatory diseases. Combined with high-insulin and anti-nutrients (kibble), lipid compounds can generate a massive neutrophil infiltration within necrotic areas of peripancreatic adipose tissue, thus aggravating pancreatic conditions.  In short, kibble diets already inflame the pancreas, adding fat may push an already struggling pancreas over the edge.

 

KETO FRIENDLY TREATS:

Kure Cheese Treats

K9 Natural

Raw Bistro             

Cheese Please                  

Colorado Dawg

Small Batch 

Lakse Kronch

Ziwi Peak

Bellyrubs

 

KETO FRIENDLY CHEWS:

One of the best ways to keep your pets chews ketogenic is to use raw bones or toys and stuff/freeze them with keto friendly foods and treats. Here are some ideas:

Raw Bones – Raw bones contain marrow which is around 4% Protein and 36% Fat. These are about 780kcals/3.5oz of marrow

Green Juju - This 'green smoothie' product contains keto-friendly veggies, herbs, bone broth and coconut oil.  It is 16% Fat and 22% Protein so combined with a little Kure Cow Milk, Kure Raw Goat Milk, Coconut Oil, Ghee, Grass-fed Butter or a high-fat food it's actually a great keto-snack. 

Supplements - you can use Coconut Oil, Ghee, Grass-fed Butter, Cow Kefir, Goat Milk, or high-quality Lard mixed with the above listed treats or Green Juju to stuff your toys or bones. 

"Human Foods" Seeds: Chia Seeds, Meats: Eggs, cooked Salmon or other fish, Veggies: Spinach, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Mushrooms, Green Beans, Cucumbers, Asparagus, Okra, Cauliflower, Celery, Fruits: Berries (in very small amounts).  These ingredients should never exceed 5% of the diet.

 

What are exogenous ketones and when would I use them?

There are 3 kinds of Ketones in the body:

BHB (Beta-Hydroxybutrate), AcAc (Acetoacetate), Acetone (made by breaking down AcAc)

Exogenous Ketones are shown to improve insulin sensitivity, decrease appetite and modify body composition. The Ketone ester ‘BHB’ has been proven to significantly delay the onset of seizure activity, even after just one dose. 

In severe seizure or neurologic conditions (such as brain injury, or pre-surgery) BHB may prove useful for maintaining higher levels of ketones, improving oxygenation and increasing seizure tolerance (when used in conjunction with a ketogenic diet). They also improve insulin sensitivity which can help regulate diabetic conditions by allowing more effective use of glucose vs storage. BHB used in human subjects showed that once 3.5mmol/L was reached, insulin sensitivity increased by 40% for up to 12 hours, evidencing that BHB supplementation can be quite helpful in diabetic patients.

Ketone supplementation has been shown to increase antioxidant capacity, slow tumor growth and metastasis (in some studies increasing cancer survival by 4 times), limit oxidative stress and inflammation, triggering DNA repair, and may enhance mitochondrial production and function which may reduce the likelihood that cells will become cancerous.

Expensive/Tastes Awful/Preferential: Go to Amazon and search “HVMN Ketone Esters”

Inexpensive/Tastes Good/Less Effective: Go to Amazon and search “Exogenous Ketone” or “BHB”


How long can I keep my pet on a ketogenic diet?

Dietary ketosis takes 2-7 days to get into ketosis (attained more quickly through fasting).  It is imperative to maintain ketogenic diet ratios for at least one week to have any effects from ketosis.  In severe health conditions such as seizures or cancer it is optimal to maintain a ketogenic diet for a minimum of 60 days.  However, there are benefits to rotating from a ketogenic diet to a low-carb, non-ketogenic diet with increased fresh, nutrient-rich veggies and fruits in instances of less severe dis-ease states.

 

When Ketogenic Diets are not recommended: liver shunts, pregnancy, end-stage kidney failure, diabetes insipidus, acute pancreatitis, gallbladder disease, and impaired liver function.  Abdominal tumors (pancreatic and stomach) should only be treated with ketosis under direct supervision of a Veterinarian or Nutritionist as the diet may need to be modified for these conditions.

 

Isn’t this potentially dangerous? I’ve heard of something called Ketoacidosis.

Ketoacidosis occurs when the body uncontrollably produces ketones, typically in the presence of high glucose (carbs and sugars). This occurs in diabetics and is indicated by ketone levels reaching 15-25mmol/L (vs the maximum of 7mmol/L induced by ketosis).  Further, ketoacidosis occurs when insulin is not present (such as in the case of a diabetic) or when the cells are resistant to insulin’s effects, causing glucose levels to rocket above 300mg/dL (vs the 50-100mg/dL found in ketosis or fasting states).

 

How do I know if my pet is in Ketosis?

The only way to truly know if your pet is in ketosis is by monitoring blood values.

Ideally, testing should be done twice a day. It’s fairly unrealistic to bring your pet to the vet twice a day for testing, but a minimum of twice a week could be done to at least create a minimal baseline of understanding of your pets’ metabolic function. Alternatively, you can test at home by purchasing the unit below then sharing the test results with your Veterinarian.

  • Precision Xtra Blood Glucose and Ketone Monitoring Meter. This meter can be purchased with strips, wipes, and lancets for $108.99.
  • Strips are cheaper if purchased on Amazon as “Unboxed, Sealed” – get Glucose & Ketone strips
  • Glucose levels should test between 60-120 mg/dL (75 or below is ideal)
  • Ketone levels should test between .3-5mmol/mL when in ketosis (.3 or above is ideal)

 

What if you don’t monitor and you’re making assumptions about ketosis?

In cases of severe conditions such as Cancer, Seizures, Diabetes and Heart Disease, maintaining an understanding of your pets’ metabolic trends is information that can, at the very least, help you and your vet identify if what you’re doing for your pet is actually working, and at most, save your pets life.   Monitoring can be expensive and inconvenient but is the only way to really ensure ideal communication between you, your pet and your veterinarian. 

 

Resources to learn more:

KetoPet Sanctuary: Ketosis, Cancer and Canines, part 1

KetoPet Sanctuary: Ketosis, Cancer and Canines, part 2

KetoPet Sanctuary: Ketosis, Cancer and Canines, part 3

KetoPet has also created a free downloadable extended document on ketogenic diets for dogs. We recommend that you download their version.

Books – The Ketogenic Bible by Dr. Jacob Wilson and Ryan Lowery, PhD 

Youtube - Dr. Peter Attia, Dr. Dom D’agostino, Daniel Orrego (co-founder of KetoPet Sanctuary).   There are also many online videos on how to test your pet with the Precision Xtra monitor.