What Are Canine Metabolic Disorders and Diseases?


When someone says the word “metabolic,” what’s the first thing you think of?  

That’s right: (you guessed itmetabolism.  

When we talk about metabolism in day-to-day life, we’re usually referring to “fast metabolism” or “slow metabolism” i.e. how well someone’s body is able to metabolize or energetically process its fuel (food). 

Today, we’ll be talking about the canine metabolic system, which…yes! Is absolutely related to metabolism and the way that dogs process what they eat.  

If you’re skeptical about how raw, Ketogenic food is biologically related to well-being for dogs, look no further than the metabolic system! Understanding this crucial system will help reveal why proper nutrition for dogs is so important for overall health.  

Let’s dig in! 



For dogs and humans, metabolism is, 

“the sum of the chemical reactions that take place within each cell of a living organism and that provide energy for vital processes and for synthesizing new organic material.

Living organisms are unique in that they can extract energy from their environments and use it to carry out activities such as movement, growth and development, and reproduction.

But how do living organisms—or, their cells—extract energy from their environments[?]…The answers to these questions lie in the enzyme-mediated chemical reactions that take place in living matter (metabolism).

Hundreds of coordinated, multistep reactions, fueled by energy obtained from nutrients and/or solar energy, ultimately convert readily available materials into the molecules required for growth and maintenance.” (source)


So, basically: 

  1. Metabolism = enzyme-mediated chemical reactions that take place inside a living creature’s body to produce energy

  2. Organisms get energy to metabolize from their environment (food, sunlight, etc.)

  3. Once energy is metabolized, living creatures use this energy to fuel movement, growth, development, and reproduction


The canine metabolic system is very complex; however, the basic process of eating food → metabolizing that food → using that food as energy remains constant.  

The point: dogs metabolize their food for fuel which literally keeps them alive and running. If a dog’s fuel is sub-optimal (like carb-filled kibble), it just makes sense that health problems might emerge or amplify due to this second-rate fuel source.  


the digestive enzyme AMYLASE IN DOGS 

Before we get into a discussion about metabolic diseases, let’s talk about exactly what enzymes dogs use to process their food metabolically.  

Dogs produce three primary enzymes out of the pancreas in order to digest food: protease, amylase, and lipase.  

Protease turns proteins → amino acids

Lipase turns fats → fatty acids and glycerol

Amylase turns carbs → sugars (source)

Some people argue that because dogs can use carbs for fuel through amylase that we should feed dogs high-carb diets. Even though dogs can use sugar (glucose) for fuel, there are a few ways that this fuel source is sub-optimal:  

1. Dogs do not have salivary amylase like humans: 

“While cats’ and dogs’ pancreatic and intestinal tissues can and do produce amylases that are fully capable of digesting carbohydrates, the lack of salivary amylase reminds us that nature did not intend carbs to be their primary source of nutrition.” (source)


2. Amylase production is limited in canines: 

“Research in animals has shown that the production of digestive enzymes is independent of diet. That is, animals are biologically programmed to produce specific types and amounts of digestive enzymes in response to food ingestion, regardless of what food they actually eat…Our carnivorous pets have not, and cannot, adapt their digestive functions to processed diets, which, after all, have only been widely used for a few decades.” (source)


“Meat-eating animals, such as cats and dogs, naturally produce more protease to handle their high protein requirements. They don't naturally produce much amylase because their ancestral diet doesn't consist of grains nor does their body have a nutritional need for grains and starches.” (source)


3. Finally, amylase breaks down carbs into sugars: 

Perhaps the most compelling reason for not feeding dogs carbs is that carbs are broken down into sugars instead of amino acids or fatty acids. Metabolically, processing sugar for fuel (Glycolysis) is less ideal and less effective than burning fat for fuel (Ketosis).  

To see exactly how Ketosis works and why it’s metabolically more efficient (and healthier) than Glycolysis, check out our article all about the science behind Keto.  


The point: while dogs do produce the digestive enzyme amylase to break down a limited amount of carbohydrates in the body, glucose is a less-than-ideal source of fuel.  

Over time, when dogs are forced to process this less-than-ideal fuel, what you get is less-than-ideal metabolic functioning.  

Keep this mind as we continue on to discuss how the metabolic system is related to disease.  



Now that we understand: 

  1. How the metabolic system works

  2. What digestive enzymes dogs have and use 

We can look at three diseases (cancerdiabetes, and obesity) that are currently plaguing dogs and see how they’re related to the metabolic system.  



It’s been known since the 1920’s that cancer cells feed primarily off of glucose. This is a phenomenon known as the Warburg Effect.  

Since dogs process carbs and sugars as glucose (with amylase), the primary way that glucose ends up in a dog’s body is when dogs eat carbs and sugars (mostly through kibble).  

The fact that glucose in a dog’s body is created through the metabolic system has many researchers now considering cancer a metabolic disease.



Diabetes is, at the core, a metabolic issue. When a dog develops type 2 diabetes, their cells become insulin-resistant after too much glucose (carbs-turned-sugar) is released in their body (source).

When the pancreas can no longer regulate the amount of glucose in the body with insulin, glucose levels keep rising uninhibited. Glucose is then stored as fat in the body, weight gain continues, and numerous health problems arise from being overweight.  

When on a Ketogenic diet, dogs (or humans) can metabolically switch from glucose-processing to fat-burning, helping reduce the amount of glucose in the body.  

If we look at diabetes as a metabolic syndrome, we can start to address this disease as one that can be helped by proper diet:  

“It has generally been opposed by health agencies because of concern that carbohydrate[s] will be replaced by fat [on low-carb diet], particularly saturated fat, thereby increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease as dictated by the so-called diet-heart hypothesis…in fact, substitution of fat for carbohydrate[s] generally improves cardiovascular risk factors.

Removing the barrier of concern about dietary fat makes carbohydrate restriction a reasonable, if not the preferred method for treating type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. We emphasize the ability of low carbohydrate diets to improve glycemic control, hemoglobin A1C and to reduce medication.” (source)

Essentially, diabetes is a metabolic issue and can be classified as a metabolic disease or metabolic disorder because of this. By switching metabolic pathways from sugar-processing to fat-burning, the risk for diabetes can significantly decrease.   



Obesity and being generally overweight has long been linked to insulin resistance and weight gain. Obesity isn’t “random:” it’s the over-accumulation of fat in cells.  

Metabolically, when dogs eat high-carb kibble or high produce raw diet, they process carbs as glucose (remember, glucose = sugar) and STORE fat instead of using fat-for-fuel through Ketosis. When dogs are eating highly-inappropriate, nutrient-deficient, and high-carb food, there can be a huge increased risk for weight gain and thus obesity. 

Given obesity’s roots at the metabolic level, this disease can be classified as a metabolic disease.  


To summarize:  

Cancer, diabetes, and obesity can all be classified in one way or another as metabolic disorders or diseases because at the core, all of these diseases begin with or are made worse by a metabolic system functioning at a less-than-ideal state.  

When you combine rising canine disease rates (diseases that are metabolic in nature) with the fact that we feed dogs high-carb food because we can, we are forced to look at the deeper metabolic harm carbs-turned-glucose are actually having on dogs’ bodies. 


Definition: canine METABOLIC DISEASES and disorders 

When we talk about metabolic diseases, we are discussing diseases that, at the core, are caused or made worse by: 

  1. Stress on the metabolic system or  

  2. Less-than-ideal functioning of the metabolic system 

Considering that food directly fuels the metabolic system, it just makes sense that finding the most appropriate, optimal food source would both: 

  1. Decrease stress on the metabolic system and 

  2. Allow for the optimal functioning of the metabolic system 

At B&C, we believe that Ketogenic, raw food is an optimal food source for carnivorous canines.  

We are passionate about sharing what we know about raw, Ketogenic food because of this connection between proper nutrition and overall health and well-being.  

We know that if we can avoid putting extra stress on the metabolic system by feeding our dogs correctly, we can put dogs in the best possible position to fight against life-threatening metabolic diseases. 

We want to give our dogs the best food so that they can live their best life. Period.  


JOIN THE FIGHT AGAINST canine METABOLIC DIseases and disorders 

B&C is on a mission to fight the war on metabolic diseases with proper nutrition. 

We KNOW that there is a deep, metabolic connection between overall health and nutrition.  

We KNOW that by feeding our dogs better, we can make the world a better place for our furry friends. A world filled with less disease, less metabolic stress, and MORE delicious, appropriate food.  

So…JOIN THE FIGHT against canine diseases to learn more about dog nutrition, Ketogenic raw food, and how you can best help your dog live their best possible life.  

For the love of dog, 

Your B&C Tribe 

Have specific questions about your dog’s health? While B&C cannot give medical advice, we recommend seeking advice from a Holistic Veterinarian for your best furry friend (BFF). B&C is here to be a resource for you while you learn more about raw food, Keto, and dog nutrition!

Bones & Co.