Unveiling the Promising Effects of Ketogenic Diets on Epileptic Pets

In dogs, epilepsy is the most prevalent chronic neurological condition. As the most frequent chronic neurological illness affecting dogs, epilepsy is described as an enduring susceptibility to epileptic seizures (1).

It is estimated that 0.6% of dogs in the general population have epilepsy (2). The relationship between diet and the activity and behaviour of epileptic seizures in dogs is becoming more widely acknowledged.

It has been demonstrated that some diets can positively affect a dog’s idiopathic epilepsy seizure activity. In both human patients and rodent models of epilepsy, ketogenic diets have been demonstrated to be effective in lowering seizure frequency and intensity.

In this article, we understand how the ketogenic diets helps to reduce epilepsy in pet animals.

What is the ketogenic diet?

The traditional ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet that replicates a starving condition without calorie restriction. Its main objective is to induce urinary ketosis, which is indicated by the presence of acetone and diacetic acid in the urine.

A ketogenic diet was gradually introduced to the patients, with daily individual prescriptions ranging from 10 to 15 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight, and enough fat to meet the remaining caloric needs (3).

The goal of this kind of diet is to put the body into “ketosis,” which is a state in which it burns fat and produces substances known as ketones to obtain energy when there aren’t enough carbohydrates in the body.

There are two main forms of ketogenic diets: the standard ketogenic diet, which mostly consists of long-chain triglycerides (LCT) as its fat source, and the ketogenic diet which primarily consists of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) as its fat source.

ketogenic diets

How do ketogenic diets work to reduce epilepsy?

Certain studies on dogs and cats, including those on epileptic dogs resistant to anticonvulsant medications, have shown the advantages of MCT supplementation (4).

An increase in polyunsaturated fatty acids has also been connected to MCT supplementation in the parietal cortex of older dogs (5).

 In addition, it acts as a substitute energy source for the brain, helping older canines think more clearly (6).

 In a study on cats, food aversion to diets with MCT as a fat source was shown (7).

MCT is a nutritional source of lipids that can help feline metabolism, as evidenced by a more recent study that found cats tolerated diets supplemented with MCT well (8).

It has been claimed that the use of MCT in ketogenic diets may be advantageous since it may allow for the inclusion of more proteins and carbs, avoiding any nutritional inadequacies and negative consequences and, as a result, enhancing the diet’s palatability.

What are the side effects of the ketogenic diet in pets?

Ketogenic diet side effects in humans may also include fatigue, headaches, nausea, gastrointestinal problems, and vitamin deficits. Dogs may also experience some of these adverse effects.

Given that fat is the primary nutrition in the ketogenic diet, there may be some issues for cats and dogs. According to Larsen et al. (9), a ketogenic diet typically receives 80–90% of its calories from fat.

According to the Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats (10), dogs and cats shouldn’t get more than 70% of their calories from fat.

Additionally, it should be remembered that one of the ketogenic diet possible uses is for people with epilepsy, including animals receiving phenobarbital treatment, which has been linked to hypertriglyceridemia (11).

In addition, obesity, which is also known to change and raise triglyceride levels, and epilepsy and its treatment are regarded as risk factors for the development of pancreatitis (12).

Additionally, the ketogenic diet alone has the potential to cause hypertriglyceridemia, particularly in the near run (13).


Eventually, several studies revealed that dog owners with epilepsy frequently modify and supplement their dog’s diets; two-thirds of owners did so following their dog’s diagnosis with idiopathic epilepsy, and nearly half provided dietary supplements as an additional level of care. 

As usual, before making any dietary modifications, please make sure to discuss them with your veterinarian.

Read more: Nourishing Your Canine Companion: Top 6 Guidelines for Feeding Diabetic Dogs

  1. Berendt, M., Farquhar, R. G., Mandigers, P. J., Pakozdy, A., Bhatti, S. F., De Risio, L., … & Volk, H. A. (2015). International veterinary epilepsy task force consensus report on epilepsy definition, classification and terminology in companion animals. BMC veterinary research11(1), 1-11.
  2. Berk, B. A., Packer, R. M. A., Law, T. H., & Volk, H. A. (2018). Investigating owner use of dietary supplements in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy. Research in veterinary science119, 276-284.
  3. Vendramini, T. H., Amaral, A. R., Rentas, M. F., Nogueira, J. P. D. S., Pedrinelli, V., de Oliveira, V. V., … & Brunetto, M. A. (2023). Ketogenic diets: A systematic review of current scientific evidence and possible applicability in dogs and cats. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition.
  4. Berk, B. A., Law, T. H., Packer, R. M. A., Wessmann, A., Bathen-Nöthen, A., Jokinen, T. S., Knebel, A., Tipold, A., Pelligand, L., Meads, Z., & Volk, H. A. (2020). A multicenter randomized controlled trial of medium-chain triglyceride dietary supplementation on epilepsy in dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 34, 1248–1259.
  5. Taha, A. Y., Henderson, S. T., & Burnham, W. M. (2009). Dietary enrichment with medium chain triglycerides (ac-1203) elevates polyunsaturated fatty acids in the parietal cortex of aged dogs: Implications for treating age-related cognitive decline. Neurochemical Research, 34, 1619–1625.
  6. Pan, Y., Larson, B., Araujo, J. A., Lau, W., de Rivera, C., Santana, R., Gore, A., & Milgram, N. W. (2010). Dietary supplementation with medium-chain TAG has long-lasting cognition-enhancing effects in aged dogs. British Journal of Nutrition, 103(12), 1746–1754.
  7. Macdonald, M. L., Rogers, Q. R., & Morris, J. G. (1985). Aversion of the cat to dietary medium-chain triglycerides and caprylic acid. Physiology & Behavior, 35, 371–375.
  8. Trevizan, L., de Mello Kessler, A., Bigley, K. E., Anderson, W. H., Waldron, M. K., & Bauer, J. E. (2010). Effects of dietary medium-chain triglycerides on plasma lipids and lipoprotein distribution and food aversion in cats. American Journal of Veterinary Research, 71, 435–440.
  9. Larsen, J. A., Owens, T. J., & Fascetti, A. J. (2014). Nutritional management of idiopathic epilepsy in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 245, 504–508.
  10. NRC. (2006). Nutrient requirements of dogs. National Academy, National Research Council.
  11. Kluger, E. K., Malik, R., Ilkin, W. J., Snow, D., Sullivan, D. R., & Govendir, M. (2008). Serum triglyceride concentration in dogs with epilepsy treated with phenobarbital or with phenobarbital and bromide. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 233, 1270–1277.
  12. Gaskill, C. L., & Cribb, A. E. (2000). Pancreatitis associated with potassium bromide/phenobarbital combination therapy in epileptic dogs. The Canadian Veterinary Journal = La revue veterinaire canadienne, 41, 555–558.
  13. Kang, H. C., Chung, D. E., Kim, D. W., & Kim, H. D. (2004). Early- and late-onset complications of the ketogenic diet for intractable epilepsy. Epilepsia, 45, 1116–1123v

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