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Ketogentic (keto) dog food is big in America, how does it stack up against commercial dog food?

Happy Healthy dachshund s

Ketogentic (keto) dog food has been trending in America for 5 years, but I have just learned about the term in Australia. This article looks at what it is, if it is healthy, and healthy alternatives.

While most owners know that most dogs thrive on a high meat content diet … many owners bauk at the cost and difficulty of providing a raw (mostly meat) dog food diet. And being in an industry that loves innovation (often just to boost sales) we are always interested to review when a meat based NEW diet presents itself.

However apparently Ketogenic dog food has been a thing for at least the last few years in America. We look at how Ketogentic (keto) dog food, differs from regular Raw meat dog food diets, and how dried single ingredient meat based dog treats fit into the equation.

What is RAW KETOGENIC Human diet.

Apparently KETOGENIC dog food is about creating Ketosis in your dog, like many humans on diets want to achieve. This is the bridge they use for acceptance of owners considering trailing it, but is Ketogenic dog food good for your dog?

Most people will recognise the word Ketosis as the key to weight loss in their diets. This is because Ketosis is what happens when a body doesn’t have enough carbs to burn for energy so it burns fat instead and, in the process, creates ketones, which it uses for energy.

You might also be aware that Ketosis is a natural metabolic body state. And in humans to accelerate ‘good’ weight loss (ie not eating muscle or protein). It is often recommended to eat low carbohydrate foods, and overall food with an energy deficit so that your body relies more on burning fat (or ketones), rather than muscle.

Humans have seemingly adopted this type of diet (keto) because in the short term it helps lose weight quickly because it reduces the body’s stores of glycogen and water. Long term, it can suppress appetite which means it is easier to consume less calories and continue to lose or maintain weight. Below is how we feel the Keto diet is placed for a healthy dog food diet:

KETOGENIC dog food google trends USA 2021 The order of HEALTHY dog food.

1 Raw meat based (right proportions of meat, offal, bone and SMALL amount of vegetable – maximise quality bio available protein, animal fats and oils etc.  The difficulty of this diet is that it can be time consuming, costly and difficult for owners to configure the ingredients and perceived safety around raw meat.

Raw diet with higher amount of vegetable matter. If meat is still above 50% (dry weight), then extra vegetables just add to fibre and unneeded carbs. We rank it as second as the KJ added by the carbs in the vegetables are basically taking away from the amount of meat that can be included.

3 Commercial dog food diet (pellet or wet can). While they reach minimum levels of vitamins and minerals required by affco, they often have VERY LOW meat amounts and not quality whole meat. Protein is made up with poor bio available vegetables or grains.  These foods need supplements like Omega 3 fish oil, AND dried meat treats to provide sufficient useable proteins for maintenance and growth functions.

4 Raw Ketogenic –  Even though most dogs do poorly on a high fat diet, this diet often is quoted as having a high meat content. Bones or calcium source must be included.

Vegan or vegetarian diet – completely inappropriate for a carnivore based dog. The makers use concentrated cattle food to get much higher protein levels so that the poor bio available protein will be sufficient to sustain a dog, cheaply for the maker. They often use oils to give a shiny coat and fool owners into thinking that something that is ok for some humans (omnivore) are ok for dogs (carnivore based).

As you can see, our research and analysis has us promote high meat diets, and even for foods like commercial dog food diets that have a minimum level of 19% protein in them, boosting the MEAT or offal protein level can provide a lot more health to a dog.

How is a ketogenic diet adapted for carnivore-based dogs?

The theory is that a ketogenic dog food diet will ‘make dogs live healthier and longer lives’.

Many articles suggest that ketogenic dog food diet Uses a raw dog food that has a Ketogenic formulation of 1:1 healthy fats: protein

And many sites also concede that feeding Ketogenic raw food is more difficult than feeding raw.  However, they say that while raw dog food provides natural species appropriate food, Ketogenic raw food claims to provide ‘real, metabolically-appropriate food.’ Ref 1

‘Thebonesandco’ site says that its as simple or difficult as this:

To feed a properly balanced nutritional (1:1) Ketogenic meal at home, you’ll need to:

  1. Figure how many calories to feed your dog based on weight and activity level
  2. Figure out the proper ratio of macronutrients:

FAT (in grams): PROTEIN (in grams) + CARBS (in grams – note: there should be very few)

  1. Determine what meat, fat, and vegetables you will use
  2. Calculate HOW MUCH of each ingredient YOUR dog should have (based on their desired weight + level of activity)

How do they practically achieve a keto diet and how does it differ from a true raw meat dog diet?

The diet they provide as an example is for a 28 Kg sleight overweight dog with moderate activity. With two meals per day, the following is ONE meal worth of food.

  • 80/20 raw ground beef 110g
  • Coconut oil 20g
  • Broccoli and cabbage 12g (carbs)
  • Total daily calories (both meals = 893 Kcal with a 2:1 ketogenic ratio, and 15 calories per pound (60 lb dog x 15 = 900 calories)
  • Daily Total: 82grams FAT, 38grams PROTEIN, 1grams NET CARB

Margot happy golden retriever Ketogenic dog food diet – HDT ANALYSIS

80/ 20 raw beef mince means 80% meat, 20% fat.  We get many emails from people whos’ vets have put their dogs on a low-fat diet because of pancreatitis or pre-pancreatitis conditions.  Our quality regular beef or chicken jerkies have around 10% fat that is about the most we would recommend for most healthy dogs.  Dogs on low fat diets require treats with 2-4% fat maximum.

This diet recommends 20g of coconut fat.  We (HDT) created a detailed technical article on the differences between oils and fats typically fed to dogs, and what specifically each ones typically contain

The aafco American nutrition tables that ALL dog food manufactures must follow to be legally called dog food in each country only define the MINIMUM crude fat required and for adult maintenance dog diets, this is 5.5% of the TOTAL diet.

Linoleic Acid (Omega 6) is required at 1.1% and alpha-linolenic acid (Omega 3)   is listed as – “Not Determined. While a minimum requirement has not been determined, sufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids are necessary to meet the maximum omega-6: omega-3 fatty acid ratio.”

The typical dog food has an Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio of about 7, however it is often achieved by low bio available flax seed, which has the ratio skyrocket to 50 to 70. For my own dog I prefer a real ratio of about 4:1  (Omega 6: Omega 3) using Salmon oil.

Coconut oil has 86.5% saturated fat. It includes NO Omega 3 oil and 1.8% Omega 6. Basically, useless for providing the mandated Essential fatty acids aafco demands.  Coconut oil is liked by people because it gives a nice shiny coat (as does almost any food oil, and anti-fungal properties). But we don’t recommend it, because it would either be used instead of Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils or if in addition, would add too many kilojoules which would require people sacrificing quality proteins from meat and offal.

The 12g of vegetables are ok. However, cabbage is likely to cause gas in a dog (incomplete digestion).  To understand what fibre commercial dog food uses and why we reviewed this in our technical article “The use of carbohydrates or fibre for dogs as nutrition in diet and supplement in a raw meat diet .

The book Canine and Feline nutrition (case et al) says that the “best fibre sources for dogs and cats are those that are moderately fermentable and provide adequate levels of SCFA’s for intestinal mucosa.”   The ones that top fibre sources that fit this criterion are beet pulp, rice brand and gum Arabic.

The point here is, you can use any old vegetable you want in dog food, from carrots to celery, but unless they are their for a technical reason, like non soluble fibre that benefits the dogs intestine, they are just as bad as the grain fillers used in commercial dog food. They help bind the stool somewhat, but are not optimised to what they need (regarding chemical reactions and good bacteria food source).

So, what is the keto ratio in the above example diet?

Daily Total: 82grams FAT, 38grams PROTEIN, 1grams NET CARB

110g beef (80/20) is 80% meat and 20% fat.

Healthline site, says that 113g beef mince with 20% fat has around 19g protein (and about 58% water).  So two meals of 110g beef mince portion will make the 19 x 2 = 38 g protein.

82grams FAT is from meat (20% meat fat + Coconut oil 20g )  x TWO MEALS

The affco dog nutrition profiles are based on DRY matter (water removed) and require a very modest crude protein of only 19%.

That means based on this keto diet example above that it would not even achieve that very LOW protein minimum.

ted dog schnauzer RAW dog food diet – HDT ANALYSIS

Dogsnaturallymagazine gives some more details around what a true raw meat diet means.

They suggest the fat content should be between 10% and 20%, The remaining foundation of your dog’s raw meals will be protein.”

“10% to 15% of your dog’s total diet needs to be bone.  Liver should be 10% of the diet. Heart should be 5% of the diet. These organs are essential.  You should also try to get kidney, pancreas, spleen, lung, eyes, brain, sweetbread and green tripe. These can be an additional 5% to 10% of the diet, if your dog can tolerate it.”

Their site goes into a lot of detail about the fat type and assortment of fruits and vegetables that they recommend.  And yes, it can be very complex to get right on a regular basis.

I personally provide a mostly raw meat and offal/ bone diet for my dog, supplemented with a small amount of wet commercial food at night, simply to provide the fibre he needs for solid stools (he won’t eat dry pellets). If your dog is not used to eating a lot of vegetables (ie hates), it can be very difficult to get good fibre into their diet (without disguising it, like many pellet or wet commercial dog foods do).

But the main thing to recognise here is that Meat and animal products form the basis of most true raw dog diets. Keto diets have a MUCH higher fat content than most vets would recommend as healthy, even more than the dogsnaturally magazine maximum of 20%.

We have our dog on a raw animal-based diet because of the MANY reasons in the many blogs we have written on this site, but realise that most owners (95% plus in Australia) use a commercial dog food diet.  Trust of dog food sites and their paid vet representatives, price and convenience of supermarket shopping are often cited as the reason for this.

We see the keto diet as an extreme form of a raw animal-based diet, and many animal-based diets even extreme compared to what we feed our dog.

But the fact that most people still feed their dog commercial dog foods that have around 30 – 40% meat content (of questionable quality) suggest to us that with the rising tide of experts leaning towards natural dog food diets, and increases in meat included – using dry single ingredient meat-based treats is one of the easiest, safest ways that you can boost the meat and clean protein in your dogs diet.

Healthy Meat based dog treats is the simplest way to give your dog the benefit of meat without having to substantially change your main dog food meal (no matter if it is commercial, raw or keto).



1    DO IT YOURSELF RAW KETOGENIC DOG FOOD by  thebonesandco dot com   SEPTEMBER 11, 2018

2       What Is Ketosis, and Is It Healthy?     Healthline dot com

3      nutritionix   raw beef nutrition analysis

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