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Originally published on The Bloq

Vote for Cali in the Hero Dog Awards – help raise awareness for the KetoPet Sanctuary and the benefits of a ketogenic diet against metabolic disease. Vote here before April 27 and spread Cali’s courageous story. 1 vote per day, per person, so vote often!

Right now, on a 53-acre plot of land outside Austin, Texas, the nonprofit KetoPet Sanctuary is doing something incredible. It isn’t your typical canine rescue facility. KPS goes out of its way to rescue dogs with incurable, terminal cancer from kill shelters. These are animals that the general public has all but left for dead. Instead of writing off the canine companions to their fate, KPS fights back by providing groundbreaking cancer treatment. And here’s the craziest part, it’s a fight they’re winning.

KPS co-founder Ron Penna explains, “We’re using a ketogenic diet that is halting and reversing cancer – because only nutrition works on the many, many levels required to make the reversals to metabolism required to create an environment where cancer can’t take hold. We don’t use nutrition as our main tool against cancer because we have some sort of ideological leaning towards food as medicine but rather because the nutritional protocol we use is more powerful than any drug currently available.”

The key to the diet Penna speaks of is something that most Americans used to be told to avoid – fat. The idea is to essentially eliminate the only fuel source cancer cells can really use – glucose. In 1926, Nobel Prize Winning scientist Otto Warburg developed the Warburg Theory of Cancer, which states that cancer and tumor growth are enabled by feeding on glucose through a process called glycolysis. The hypothesis theorizes that starving the cancer cells should stop metastasis (tumor growth). And now it looks like the theory might just be true. So far the team at KPS has successfully stunted the spread of cancer in a dozen canines and completely reversed it in many others. They have acquired their own state of the art diagnostic equipment such as PET/CT imaging which is normally reserved only for humans. It’s the gold standard in cancer diagnosis and a major tool used by the KPS staff. By using a ketogenic diet, they’re giving man’s best friend a fighting chance.

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“At KPS we feed the dogs a very specific ketogenic diet and continually check their levels of blood glucose and ketones to make sure we are getting the effect we are looking for. It’s not a diet that requires faith – you can validate it with science.” Penna says. The KPS team is emboldened by the results they’re seeing and every success fuels their passion for more positive outcomes. “Many of the dogs who were given death sentences months ago are walking around healthy and happy. These are dogs with supposedly incurable cancers like hemangiosarcoma, as well other cancers like lymphoma and mammary carcinoma.”

Meals for the dogs at KPS are administered twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening. They usually consist of a 4:1 fat-to-protein ratio at 15 calories per pound. While the contents of the diet vary to prevent the dogs from developing a food aversion, these pups eat fatty meals that would make a human salivate. A usual day of eating consists of ground beef mixed with prebiotic/probiotic fiber and fibrous veggies like asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, green beans and broccoli. The meals get an extra fat boost from MCT Oil, Coconut oil, unsweetened coconut cream as well as heavy cream, cream cheese, and avocado oil. There’s no room for kibble or other traditional dog foods in the diet and that’s key to their treatment.

Dr. Q, one of the original members who helped get KPS started, glows when speaking about their first successful treatment, “Cali is one of our earliest success stories. She was a 4.5 year old vizsla whose cancer was discovered during a pregnancy ultrasound.” Instead of a litter of puppies, Cali was pregnant with one pup and one massive tumor. She was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma – an aggressive and quickly metastasizing cancer. It’s considered incurable with a mortality rate close to 100%. Chemotherapy is not recommended because the cancer doesn’t respond to it. Knowing there was little time to act, Dr. Q and his team started her on a 120 day keto program. “By the end of the 120 days the scans revealed that Cali had no discernable evidence of any cancer. She is cancer free to this day and it’s been over a year since her initial therapy.” Ron and his wife Shannan have adopted Cali in order to give her a loving home and also to monitor her over the coming years. They’re optimistic that her cancer will never return as all readings indicate her metabolism has returned to a pre-cancerous state.

The human-level tools like the PET/CT imaging equipment allow the KPS team to have a comprehensive picture of the dogs’ state while providing an opportunity to gauge how well the treatment works and when to best make adjustments.

Penna is eager to point out that the dogs who completed the program successfully, “Will probably never have cancer again. A major issue in cancer treatment is in making sure the cancer never returns. That’s something standard of care treatments aren’t good at doing and we think it may be one of this particular protocol’s greatest strengths.” To further solidify their research the team freezes tissue samples from the dogs for future research so others can assess the groundbreaking results for themselves.

That doesn’t mean that traditional treatments like radiation go out the door, “While mostly using a nutritional protocol, we also use chemotherapy, radiation and surgery when necessary as we believe these treatment methods have their place in our program,” says Penna.

What do the results from the KetoPet Sanctuary mean for the future of the program and the future of cancer research? The CDC reported cancer is the #2 killer of Americans, with over 580,000 deaths in 2013 alone. Instead of letting the weight of that number get the team down, KPS sees it as a call to action. “We are dedicated to continuing and improving our program by finding answers to the most difficult problems in the sphere of modern health and wellness in both dogs and humans. We welcome any help, ideas and ways anyone might be able to assist us and we’re ready for individuals and institutions to collaborate with us.”

With an average of $30 billion in cancer research funding since 2011 and still no cure in sight, the small, dedicated team in Texas is paving the way for new approaches and out-of-the-box thinking about one of the world’s deadliest diseases. If you want to get involved with their groundbreaking research, the team at KPS would love to have your help. Visit their website here to learn more about their mission and help spread the word. And if you’re on social media (and you are) you can see what KPS is up to by following them below.

Cali’s been nominated for a Hero Dog award at the American Humane Association for inspiring people to seriously consider nutrition’s role in living a long, healthy life. If you want to give Cali your vote, click here.

KetoPet Sanctuary Twitter

KetoPet Sanctuary Facebook

KetoPet Sanctuary Instagram

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