Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy


or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.


petMD Blogs

Written by leading veterinarians to provide you with the information you need to care for your pets.

Subscribe to
Nutrition Nuggets
 
 
Your dog's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your dog, how much food to feed, and the differences in dog foods, so your dog gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Dog Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of dog nutrition.

Dietary Therapy for Canine Epilepsy?

June 21, 2013 / (2) comments

I am acquainted with a veterinarian who has a son with epilepsy. According to her, he used to take nine pills a day to control his seizures, but his condition is now well-controlled with diet alone. Much research and clinical evidence supports the use of a ketogenic diet for seizure control in kids with diabetes.

To paraphrase a paper1 entitled “Dietary Therapies for Epilepsy,” which was published in Biomedical Journal in 2013:

The ketogenic diet [KD] is a high-fat, adequate protein, low-carbohydrate diet that was originally designed to mimic the effects of fasting, but for extended periods.

Approximately 50-60% of children will have at least a >50% seizure reduction, with one third having >90 response. Over 1 in 10 will become seizure free. This is remarkable considering how often intractable their epilepsy may be, and how overall unlikely anticonvulsants would be to improve their seizures. Efficacy with the KD does not appear to decrease over the years, and children can have seizure control many years later, surprisingly even after the KD has been stopped in some circumstances.

After reading this, I couldn’t help but wonder if a ketogenic diet might be beneficial for controlling seizures in dogs with epilepsy. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case. I found a copy of an abstract2 that was presented at the 2005 American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine that addressed just this issue. The results of the research were not promising. Again, to paraphrase:

The objective of the study was to determine if a high fat, low carbohydrate food (ketogenic food; KF) had a significant effect on seizure frequency in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy compared to a control food (CF). Dogs were enrolled if they had a diagnosis of idiopathic epilepsy, were receiving phenobarbital and/or potassium bromide at steady state blood concentrations, and had at least three seizures in the previous three months.

The 12 dogs that completed the study received either CF (16% crude fat, 54% NFE, 25% crude protein; as dry matter) or KF (57% fat, 5.8% NFE, 28% protein; as dry matter) after a 36-hour fast. Seizure frequency and laboratory results were evaluated at 0, 0.5, 3 and 6 months into the test period. There was no difference in seizure frequency between KF group dogs (2.02, 2.41/month) and CF group dogs (2.35, 1.36/month) at 0 and 6 months respectively (p = 0.71, 0.17).

Disappointing, eh? I suspect this lack of response in dogs has something to do with their ability to withstand long periods of not eating without serious adverse effect. The essential biochemical changes caused by high fat/low carbohydrate diet in people may simply not occur in dogs.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

References

  1. Dietary therapies for epilepsy. Kossoff EH, Wang HS. Biomed J. 2013 Jan-Feb;36(1):2-8.
  2. Results of a Ketogenic Food Trial for Dogs with Idiopathic Epilepsy. Edward E. Patterson. American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 2005.

Image: Milias1987 / via Shutterstock

Subscribe to Nutrition Nuggets

Comments  2

Leave Comment
  • Wow!
    06/21/2013 04:44pm

    I wonder how in the world human doctors made the connection of this type of diet and epilepsy. I'd be curious to know if there are any adverse effects of high fat even though the carbs are low.

    Such a shame it doesn't work in dogs, though. Dogs may be able to go without a meal for quite awhile, but it's been my experience that most dogs will eat if something is offered.

  • 06/22/2013 07:42pm

    I have heard taurine helps epilepsy and seizures.

 



ABOUT NUTRITION NUGGETS

JENNIFER COATES, DVM

Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.

  • Lifetime Credits:
  • Today's Credits:
Hurry Before All Seats are Taken!
Enroll
Be an A++ Pet Parent! Take fun & free courses to earn badges & certifications. Choose a course»

Poll

How often do you read the label on your dog’s food?


 
MORE FROM PETMD.COM