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A community a member was asking about Keto diets for dogs with cancer, specifically mast cell tumors. So, I thought I would address her question further with a post!
First off, I do not feel I am an expert in keto diets for dogs but I do link to some experts in this post. However, I am going to share with you my research and personal experience with this diet. I’ve known about keto diets for dogs for quite some time but it was never a fit for any of my dogs. Now, I know many people will advocate that everyone (humans and carnivorous animals) should be on a keto diet regardless of health issues present. My approach to nutrition is not based on extreme diets one way or another. My approach is the individual animal in front of me and will this work for them.
Facts About Keto Diets for Dogs
- The goal is to induce nutritional ketosis which is a metabolic state that happens when the body utilizes fat and ketones as its primary source of fuel (this is much different than ketoacidosis)
- The way ketosis occurs is through a calorie-restricted diet that is high fat, moderate in protein, and low in carbs
Does a keto diet cure or stop cancer? This is the biggest question surrounding a keto diet. There is no cure for cancer just yet, sadly. However, Keto Pet Sanctuary has been studying the effects of a keto diet on many dogs with cancers. They’ve been able to provide research and case studies showing that the keto diet can play a significant role in reducing the progression of certain types of cancers and tumor growth.
Is the keto diet as easy as feeding ground beef, broccoli, coconut oil, and chia seeds? The short answer is no. This ‘recipe’ is nowhere near meeting the nutrient needs of a dog and can be dangerous if fed long term. There are a few companies who are selling commercial keto diets like Visionary Pet Foods.
What dogs could benefit from a keto diet? Here is the biggest question in my mind because I don’t feel a keto diet is for every dog. First, dogs who cannot tolerate high-fat diets should steer clear, especially those prone to pancreatitis or who might already have a compromised pancreas. Second, if the main reason for wanting to feed keto is because of cancer you should understand that not every cancer might respond well to a keto diet. There is SO much we do not know about keto and high-fat diets in general when it comes to cancer. In my research for the most optimal diet for my dog Izzy who has cutaneous melanoma, skin cancer, there was conflicting information about a keto diet and melanomas. Check out this research: Melanoma Mutation Likes Fat for Fuel - https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170112141359.htm
Ultimately, I opted not to feed Izzy a keto diet for various reasons. If you are interested to know about these reasons and what I am feeding her, let me know.
The dogs that I feel could benefit from a keto diet are the following:
- Epileptic dogs - there is a ton of research and information available to us about epilepsy and carbohydrates. If you have a dog with epilepsy (who is otherwise healthy and can tolerate high fat) I highly suggest looking into a keto diet.
- Dogs with constant tumor growth such as MCT type tumors or hemangiosarcomas. These are the ones who seem to see good results with the keto diet and halting or slowing down tumor growth.
- Dogs with certain seizure conditions who are otherwise healthy
There are a few things you have to balance and take into consideration if you are going to try a keto diet with your dog…
- The fat to protein ratio. This can change over time depending on how aggressive you want to be with the keto diet. Some start with a 1:1 and then go to a 1:2
- Exercise and keto go hand in hand so your dog needs to be exercising daily
- In order to know if your dog is achieving ketosis you will need to monitor for it and test their blood with the appropriate testing kits
- If doing a keto diet DIY, you need to make sure the recipe you are following is meeting nutrient requirements - the ‘recipe’ I mentioned above is NOT ideal or optimal at all
- Body condition score and maintaining an optimal weight and muscle mass is also a balancing act with keto. This was one of the reasons I did not pursue a keto diet with Izzy
If you want to further pursue a keto diet for your dog I would suggest reading and researching Keto Pet Sanctuary https://www.ketopetsanctuary.com/ but please know that their ‘diet calculator’ should not be a recipe to follow long term. Second, there is a dog dad who provides tons of information and balanced diets to follow for DIY keto for dogs who has a lot of information available as well. https://ketogenick9.wordpress.com/
In terms of the commercial keto diet from Visionary Pet Foods - I have seen first hand how this keto raw diet has had positive effects on my sister’s epileptic dog, Raina. When we were first working on Raina’s diet to help control the seizures we did DIY for a while but my sister needed the ease of commercial raw. Luckily, Visionary hit the market and they’ve been feeding Raina the raw beef diet for about two years now with much success in seizure control. I cannot speak to their newly launched kibble as I have not tried it for my dogs or know anyone who has. https://visionarypet.com/
Let me know in the comments if this was helpful or what other questions you might have. I know this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to keto diets for dogs!