A dog falls into ketosis once its body uses ketone bodies as primary fuel over glucose. This is achieved by following a ketogenic diet which is very low on carbohydrates and very high in fats, and proteins. The ketogenic diet for dogs is absolutely healthy and balanced but requires home preparation.
Virtually all kibble, canned dog foods, and treats available commercially contain too high levels of carbohydrates to be compatible with a keto dog diet. Therefore, if you want your dog to follow a keto lifestyle, you need to prepare all of its meals and treats yourself.
What is the ketogenic diet for dogs?
The ketogenic diet for dogs is a diet in which the dog’s body breaks down fat cells instead of glucose for the purpose of creating energy reserves. Ketogenic diets are great for weight management, brain power, and preventing diseases related to blood sugar and insulin resistance.
Keto for dogs is a normal metabolic process, in fact. Normally, when the body needs fuel it will burn down the stores of energy in the form of glucose. However, when glucose is absent from the diet, the body must turn to another source – fat. The body will begin to burn fat and produce a chemical known as ketones, or ketone bodies.
What are ketone bodies?
Ketones are chemical compounds that are produced and distributed by the dog’s liver. Ketones are a type of acid that every person or animal possesses. They are released when the body is forced to burn fat for fuel.
At times, when there isn’t enough insulin in your body to turn the sugar in your bloodstream into energy, the dog’s body must find another solution. Ketone bodies are obtained from the liver as a sustainable way of fueling the body’s multiple systems (digestive, hormonal, etc). The dog’s body does this by turning dietary fat and adipose tissues into ketones. These ketones are then transferred into the bloodstream.
Tissues in the body and muscles use these ketones for their basic fuel source. This is what gives the ketogenic diet its name, due to the ketones playing a major role in the body’s process of energy assimilation.
How do dogs get into ketosis?
Dog owners can help dogs reach ketosis by switching their diet to a low carb diet for dogs. In order to do this successfully, pet parents must change the dog’s feeding. A specific keto-friendly dog diet must be designed to eventually put your dog in a state of ketosis. Then, the dog’s body begins to smoothly produce the ketones in high volume.
The transition may take a few days and up to a couple of weeks. This can be done by switching to homemade foods as opposed to food that is processed. Processed and packaged foods are loaded with added sugars and should be avoided completely. Don’t feed your dog carbs at all whether it is in the form of rice, pasta, bread, biscuits, fruits, etc. Instead, load up on leafy greens, hearty proteins, fatty fish, etc.
Consider the macro ratio of:
- 70% of fat,
- 25% of proteins, and
- 5% of complex carbohydrates.
Fat being the highest, then protein, and then carbs as low as possible. In addition, periods of short fasts will speed up the process as well. Within a few days of this diet, your dog should hit ketosis.
Do dogs get the keto flu?
During the transition period to a keto diet, dogs may suffer from flu-like symptoms associated with low carb, high-fat eating. This happens to most people and dogs and generally results in being in a state of fatigue.
A ketogenic diet for dogs will have its side effects in the beginning. This is normal. A keto flu can be described as extreme lethargy. Some side effects may even feel like the actual flu with aches and pains associated. The most important thing to remember is that the keto flu is temporary and it will pass after a few short days.
When the body is accustomed to burning glucose for fuel and suddenly the fuel source is removed, it will take for the body to notice that it needs another source. This is the transition to burning fat instead and in the process of the transition, the body will slow down until it figures it all out.
Is the keto diet safe for dogs?
Absolutely, a dog keto diet is completely safe and helps prevent an array of illnesses. You must ensure that you are providing enough of the healthy fats and proteins in your dog’s meals. Although a low carb diet has its benefits, choosing unhealthy fats and proteins may slow the, or even reverse it. The quality of the food counts.
Ensure your dog also reaches his daily caloric requirements as well. Keep in mind that a low carb diet for dogs is not a weight loss diet, nor should it be your aim. It is a way of eating for health benefits so your dog shouldn’t lose much weight with it unless of course, he is already overweight.
Benefits of a Keto diet for Dogs
The ketogenic diet boomed over the last decade as the general population went on an effort to cut sugars and carbohydrates as a whole. Everybody I know who tried this diet never looked back. This is why dogs are now also switching to a ketogenic-friendly diet and for them, it’s even closer to their original wild diet.
A ketogenic diet for dogs will provide more energy support than an ordinary diet. A dog keto diet provides sustained energy levels throughout the day as there are no sudden spikes. As a result, the dog will experience less lethargy and feel better overall. Also, since the quality of food is enhanced, this also aids in giving the dog the boost of energy it needs as opposed to processed fake food.
Normally, a diet full of carbs causes sugar crashes in an organism. Your body does not know how to distinguish the difference between sugar from a candy bar, or carbs from rice, for example. The point is, carbs are turned into sugar in the bloodstream in the same way any other sugar source is processed. At first, this spike of sugar will create a burst of energy in the dog. However, the spike in sugar also has its fall and the dog will feel the effects of the constant up and down which in the long run, the energy is not sustained.
A low carb diet for dogs will automatically set the dog back to its primitive days of eating natural foods that are found in nature. This is the way all organisms should eat as this is the only way animals have been created to eat. By eating real, natural foods, dogs are more in tune with their bodies. The keto can easily mimic what dogs used to eat when they were in the wild. This includes no carbs, or at least, very little carbs. The primitive way of eating that dogs in the wild are accustomed to provides them with a wide range of fatty meats which provides the high-fat macro percentage that they need as well as the high-quality protein from the animal meat.
According to scientific studies, a ketogenic diet for dogs has proven to be very effective in treating and even preventing canine cancer. Basically, cancer cells feed off of sugar, therefore it’s logical to conclude that the more glucose in the blood there is, the higher the chance any form of cancer will survive and spread. A low carb diet for dogs essentially starves the cancer cells. If the cells no longer have any fuel to feed off of, they eventually die. Technically, the cancer cells do not survive on a high-fat diet.
The results that have been produced from many of these case studies are astounding. Many cases of cancer have actually been reversed due to the lack of glucose in the blood. However, let’s be cautious with such findings and claims – we should all await a larger consensus from worldwide medical bodies before coming to clear conclusions.
This ketogenic diet for dogs can be considered to treat epilepsy as long as there aren’t any metabolic or mitochondrial reasons that would keep one from using this diet safely. The canine keto diet can even help in reduce or stop anti-seizure drugs.
Actually, they have been recommended by doctors when one does not respond well to the medications. What helps to make sense of this is the fact that ketone bodies that are released during the ketogenic stage are released in the brain. Ketones are water soluble so they are easily transported by the brain. The brain then uses these ketones for energy as long as there is an absence of glucose. It doesn’t use fatty acids for fuel, but rather, the ketones itself.
Disadvantages of a Canine Ketogenic Diet
No dog diet is perfect or all-encompassing. Even a ketogenic diet presents some disadvantages for dogs and they have more to do with convenience than actual health.
Discipline over time
A ketogenic diet for dogs requires a lot of discipline. It is so much easier to eat carbs and sugar as they are found in almost all dog foods and supplements. Therefore, the change to high fat and protein will require many to forego their natural tendencies and favorite foods.
Just like for humans, it is not easy to never feed your dog anything that is filled with carbohydrates. In fact, healthy fats and proteins are considerably harder to come by and tend to be more expensive.
Lack of commercial pet food
Most, if not all, dog foods in stores today as well as online are packed with carbohydrates and added sugars – even when they are grain-free. By having your dog go on a keto diet, you dismiss the opportunity of purchasing any commercial dog food, treat, or snack as a result.
This will ultimately cause the dog owners to prepare all the food at home. Basically, you will have to prepare every single meal as well as every snack or biscuit yourself. And this often times can be tedious and less convenient. Very few products available online or in stores are compatible with a keto diet but you can look at fish skins, beef liver treats, and single-ingredients dog treats.
Hard to provide a balanced diet
Many of the packaged foods and dog biscuits available on the market are created to provide a complete meal as a whole. In other words, dog food manufacturers try to incorporate all the major nutrients packed together. Since you will now have to put the diet together yourself, you will need to do your homework and research to know what you must provide to embed all the nutrients, minerals, and vitamins that your dog needs.
One of the major challenged when switching to a keto diet for dogs is the price difference. Most dog foods on the market can be found within reasonable prices (due to their very low quality). Now that you will be making all the food on your own, you will have to buy all the items separately.
Making everything yourself in small batches is inevitably pricier and less convenient than going in the store and buying a bag of dog food ready to serve. But the results are ultimately all worth the extra hassle.
Ingredients for Keto Meals for Dogs
We know it is hard to know what are the most appropriate ingredients and food sources to switch to dog keto meals. Here is a list of the most important ingredients you can start using to prepare keto meals for your dogs. Most of them are not even expensive at all (offals are very cheap but gross) so you can make some savings, too.
Fatty fish is a very important source for a ketogenic diet for pets. The fat contained within this fish will help keep your dog’s macro levels in check by providing the body with the most beneficial and healthy fat sources. In addition, these fatty fish products, such as wild salmon, provide omega 3 and 6 fatty acids which are also great for brain health. You can also supplement your dog’s diet with some fish oils capsules for dogs.
A keto diet for dogs needs to incorporate a lot of protein as well. All meats that are from the muscle part of an animal will supply ample amounts of protein for strength. Unfortunately, most commercial dog foods contain 70% carbs and that leaves little room for protein. Animals need proteins that are intact, in other words, that have not been heated, processed, or pressurized, as this gets rid of the important amino acids and decreases their bioavailability. Muscle meats are very much what dogs would start with when in the wild. Feel free to cook it to avoid contamination unless you are familiar with dog raw feeding, or similar diets (e.g. canine paleo diet).
Offals are essentially organ meats. They provide a lot of great flavors for your dog’s enjoyment, yet, the nutrition offered is even more important. One offal, such as the liver, provides essential B vitamins, selenium, folate, and vitamin A. Other organ meats like the heart provide CoQ10 which helps support the thyroid and aids in prevention or treatment of diseases and ailments of the kidney. Beef liver contains more B12 vitamins than the average cut of steak as long as B vitamins and folate. Offals also do a great job in aiding the dog’s body in its detoxification.
Cheese is an excellent source of fat and proteins for a ketogenic diet for dogs. Additionally, cheese also provides other important elements such as calcium and protein for your pet’s diet. One of the greatest things about cheese is that it tends to have a great flavor and dogs love it.
Ensure the cheese you choose for your dog is not processed. Obviously, any cheese that has been processed is not real cheese. Try natural cheeses instead like aged cheeses, hard cheeses such as cheddar, for example.
The very small amount of carbs that your dog is allowed get should come from vegetables. Raw or lightly cooked leafy greens are packed with fiber which helps with digestion. Some of the best leafy greens to add to your keto meals for dogs include:
- collard greens,
- spinach, and
These are great sources of Vitamin A and K. They are also full of water. Swiss chard contains manganese and potassium, as well as spinach. Broccoli contains an additional nutrient with its Vitamin C content. These are all great sources of antioxidants, especially when eaten raw.
Vegetables add similar benefits of leafy greens. But in this category, you can add other veggies such as carrots, peppers, cauliflower, cucumber, zucchini, and tomatoes. Each vegetable provides beneficial nutrients and vitamins for your dog’s health such as the Vitamins A, K, and B6. Carrots provide beta-carotene, tomatoes have lycopene, and other green veggies provide phytochemicals. The antioxidants will aid in preventing many diseases.
Many root vegetables have a higher carbohydrate content so you must ensure that you do not go beyond your dog’s allowed macronutrient ratio.