According to the Animal Cancer Foundation, roughly 6 million dogs in the US are diagnosed with cancer every year. Studies have shown that the ketogenic diet helps dogs live longer, healthier lives by enhancing their immune system and helping their body defenses fight off cancer, epilepsy, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders, and more. In today's post, we'll take a look at what the ketogenic diet is and how it works. We'll also explain exactly why it can benefit your dog's health.
What Is the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet gained popularity in the 1920s when it was first introduced by Greek physicians who advertised it as an effective treatment for epilepsy. Since then, it has gained traction for its significance in the prevention and control of a number of fatal diseases in humans. It has also featured in countless weight loss success stories.
In recent years, the ketogenic diet for dogs has become increasingly popular. The truth is that most commercial dog foods are processed and packed full of cheap ingredients and fillers. They do not contain all the required nutrients your dog needs to stay healthy, and are packed full of sugar (carbohydrates). Too much sugar is unsafe for your dog's health. In fact, it cripples the body's defenses and can lead to obesity and chronic illness.
The ketogenic diet is a calorie-restricted low-carb, moderate protein, and high-fat diet. By replacing carbohydrates with dietary fat as the primary source of body fuel, the body is forced into a state of ketosis, where the cells utilize ketones for energy instead of glucose.
Judging by their dentition, gut microflora, and digestive system, dogs are carnivores. They are designed to live on raw meat and edible bones. They are also capable of obtaining all the vitamins and nutrients they need from a high fat, moderate protein, and very low carbohydrate diet.
Ketogenic Diet Plan
The ketogenic diet for dogs is easy to achieve, unless your dog is a picky eater. These days, high-quality ketogenic raw dog foods are readily available in stores and online. Alternatively, you can choose to feed a home-prepared ketogenic diet. The ketogenic diet is calorie restricted. This means that all foods must be weighed (even treats)!
Each serving of food should be comprised of 82% of calories from healthy fat, 17% calories from animal-based protein, and 1% calories from net carbohydrates. When you first start your dog on a ketogenic diet, you may want to slowly ease him into the diet so he becomes accustomed to lower carbs and higher fats: for example, start with 70%-80% of calories from fat, 25%-30% calories from protein, and 3%-7% calories from carbohydrates. You can then make adjustments as you observe improvement and can see that your dog is benefiting from the diet. The KetoPet Sanctuary provides a free online diet calculator to create a ketogenic diet for dogs.
Both plant-based and animal-based fats should be incorporated into your dog's diet. Good sources of plant-based fats include seeds, nuts, coconut oil, and MCT oil. Examples of animal-based fats include fatty fish, fish oil, uncured pork belly, and pork jowls.
Foods like eggs, ground beef, pork heart, and beef liver are high in animal-based protein. Fiber-rich leafy greens such as broccoli, asparagus, kale, and spinach should also be given in minimal amounts.
The ketogenic diet is a perfect way to fulfill your dog's nutritional requirements and support their overall health. It's completely safe, and has been successfully used by dog owners around the world to help their pets overcome life-threatening diseases, lose weight, and lead an active lifestyle.
Coconut Oil and the Ketogenic Diet
Coconut oil is an essential addition to the ketogenic diet because it helps your dog get into ketosis faster. Coconut oil is a rich dietary source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are easily absorbed into the body, and go straight to the liver to be converted into ketones. This increases ketone levels, makes energy available, and promotes quicker breakdown of fats in the body.
Incorporating coconut oil into your dog's diet helps increase their energy levels and pushes their body into rapid ketosis. Coconut oil helps increase good (HDL) cholesterol in the body and downplays the effects of bad (LDL) cholesterol. This ensures optimal heart health while on the ketogenic diet. In addition, since coconut oil is a saturated fat, it acts as a natural hunger suppressant and helps improve satiety.
The lauric acid in coconut oil is highly beneficial for dogs. The value of lauric acid has been widely studied and has shown multiple health benefits. Lauric acid has antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties. It also strengthens the immune system, acts as a systemic anti-inflammatory, and provides powerful antioxidant support.
How Does the Ketogenic Diet Work?
When dogs are fed low-quality foods that are high in carbohydrates, a large amount of sugar is supplied their body. The sugar is then converted to glucose (energy). The body uses what it needs, and stores the leftover as glycogen in the liver and muscle tissues. When glycogen stores are full, the body will begin to store excess glucose as fat. This is one of the major causes of obesity in dogs. It's also the reason why many dogs suffer from the same diseases as humans.
When there's a short supply of glucose, the body starts to use up all its glycogen reserves. After it exhausts all its stores, it begins to burn fat as a source of fuel. The liver emulsifies fat, breaking it down to produce ketones. When glucose levels drop and ketone levels rise, the body goes into a state called ketosis. It may take up to 3-4 days for the body to enter into ketosis.
You can use keto sticks to find out if your dog is in a state of ketosis by testing their urine for the presence of ketones. Keto sticks are inexpensive and easy to use. They can be purchased online or from your local pharmacy. It's important to note that some dog may suffer from mild side effects including nausea or lethargy as their body adapts to the ketogenic diet. These side effects are referred to as keto flu.
Why Is the Ketogenic Diet Effective?
Ketosis isn't a favorable condition for the growth of tumors and cancer cells. Unlike healthy body cells, most cancer cells do not have the metabolic flexibility to utilize ketones. Instead, they require large amounts of glucose to grow and multiply.
Since the ketogenic diet reduces the levels of glucose in the blood, cancer cells simply cannot survive. A study carried out on mice to test the effect of the ketogenic diet on tumor growth, revealed a marked decline in the incidence of tumors. By starving the cancer cells and depriving them of energy, the ketogenic diet actually helps reverse cancer.
Is the Ketogenic Diet Sustainable for Long Periods?
The ketogenic diet is sustainable for long periods, and is a far healthier option than feeding low-quality commercial dog foods. Thomas Sandberg, CEO of Long Living Pets Research, has fed his six dogs a ketogenic raw diet since 2000. Here's what he has to say about the ketogenic diet:
"Every year my dogs undergo a full medical check-up and each year, without exception, they have been 100% healthy. There’s no reason why all dogs can’t enjoy a long, healthy, disease-free life with the proper nutrition."
Health Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet
Here's a quick list of the main health benefits of the ketogenic diet for dogs (and humans)!
- Fat loss
- Increased lifespan
- Increased energy
- Slows down the aging process
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Reduced inflammation
- Improved liver and gut health
- Suppressed appetite and cravings
- Quick and healthy metabolism
- Increased growth hormone secretion
- Enhanced immune system
- Improved brain health
- Prevention of neurodegenerative diseases
We hope you enjoyed today's post about the ketogenic diet for dogs. Want more information about ketones and how they are beneficial to health? Check out our previous post, What's the Big Deal About Ketones?