keto diet for dogs calgary dog life blog


In recent years, there are more and more people jumping on the ketogenic craze. In humans, ketogenic diets have been shown to aid in weight loss, help build muscle, treat epilepsy, migraines, depression, diabetes, and most importantly cancer. Beyond showing benefits in humans, there has been a lot of recent research into how ketogenic diets can benefit our canine companions.


So, what’s the science behind this keto-craze? First it’s time for a little history lesson.

Back in the 1920s-30s there was a scientist by the name of Otto Heinrich Warburg that discovered a unique distinction in the metabolic cycle of cancer cells. Cancer cells, unlike normal cells can only multiply and divide when provided with glucose.

Normal human cells on the other hand have a built in back-up generator. In times of stress, human cells can complete cell processes relying on ketones as fuel as opposed to the favored glucose. Cancer cells don’t have this back-up generator. So if there’s no glucose, the cancer cells will essentially ‘starve’ and in theory be unable to multiply.  

This discovery was later called the Warburg Effect. This was big news in the science community, rightfully so, until Watson and Crick (and an under credited Rosalind Franklin….. but that’s a different story) decided to discover the structure of human DNA.

Warburg went on the win a Nobel prize for his discovery of the nature and mode of action of respiratory enzymes, but the science surrounding Warburg’s discovery sort of fell by the wayside as the science community became obsessed with finding out more and more about human DNA. In recent years, a lot of scientists have been revisiting the framework laid down by Warburg and the science surrounding the Warburg Effect, specifically in the area of cancer research.  

Canines and Ketogenics

So you may be wondering, what does this have to do with my dog?

Well, ketogenics have not only been shown to have positive health impacts in humans that switch to a keto-plan, but in dogs as well.

What exactly is a ketogenic diet?

Well, ketogenic diets are high-fat, adequate protein, and low to no carbohydrates. This ratio assures minimal glucose, and maximum ketones. If you really think about it, this diet is not too different from what your dog would consume in the wild.

Dogs in the wild would sustain themselves on animal fats and protein. Most dogs in the wild would have little to no carbohydrates or plant products. Most plant products consumed in the wild would be by-products of other animals, i.e. intestinal and/or stomach contents of herbivorous or omnivorous prey.

Our dogs weren’t designed to eat carbohydrate rich kibble, or even worse…. table scraps. Since dogs have been long domesticated by man, their natural preferences have changed. Ketogenic raw food based diets can prove to be good options for all dogs but specifically for dogs diagnosed with metabolic diseases, diabetes, and/or cancer.

Getting on a Keto Routine

Knowing whether or not your dog is falling into ketosis is simpler than one may think. To assure one’s dog is in a state of ketosis, there are dip-stick tests that determine ketone body concentration in urine, the more ketones, the better.

Presently, there are a few different ketogenic and ketone supplements available on the market to help aid in the establishment of a keto-routine. There is some reservation, however, largely due to the high fat intake. High fat diets in dogs can open up the door to a series of different health effects such as pancreatitis. You also have to be careful what type of fat makes up your dog’s ketogenic diet. Animal fats, ALA rich fats (flax and chia), and Omega 3’s are all healthy fats to add to your dog’s nutritional routine.

Ongoing Research

Some of the biggest support for ketogenic diets in dogs comes from the work and research being done at the Keto Pet Sanctuary and the Epigenix foundation. A combination of ketogenic diets, metabolic conditioning (strenuous physical exercise), and hyperbaric oxygen therapy has shown to dramatically reduce the size and proliferation of tumors in dogs at their shelter. The work being done at the Keto Pet Sanctuary is a positive enforcer of the support of ketogenic diets in dogs, and the option of holistic based treatment as opposed to pharmaceutical.

  1. Heiden, M.G., Cantley, L.C., Thompson, C.B. 2009. Understanding the Warburd Effect: The Metabolic Requirements of Cell Proliferation. Science. 324(5930):1029-1033.
  2. KetoPet Sanctuary.2017.[Internet] Accessed 18 Sept 2017.
  3. Nelson, D.L., Cox, M.M. 2013. Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry. W.H. Freeman and Company. New York: 501-976.
  4. Wikipedia. Otto Heinrich Warburg. 2017. [Internet] Accessed 18 September 2017.
Alice Messler Ketogenic diet for dogs
Alice Messler is an experienced scientist and Study Director with a demonstrated history in the pharmaceuticals industry. She specializes in canine Toxicology, method development, and scientific writing, and has done extensive research in the field of natural products science, and holistic nutritional chemistry.

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