Feeding the Dogs

Intermittent Fasting for Dogs? Not So Fast

“Feeding pet dogs just once a day might keep them healthier as they age,” says a headline in New Scientist this week. But when we look under the headline, it’s pretty clear that there’s not much support for this claim. It’s more of a hypothesis that dogs might benefit from intermittent fasting. After all, intermittent fasting has been a hot concept for human dieting over the last several years. So researchers decided to dig into survey data to see if they could find any associations between less frequent feeding (once daily) and a dog’s health.

But this research has not yet gone through peer review and it has significant limitations. Thus, the authors themselves write:

“Given the limitations of this cross-sectional, observational study, the results of this investigation should not be used to make decisions about the feeding or clinical care of companion dogs.”

Research That Merits Follow-up

Alex German, a professor of small animal medicine at the University of Liverpool, tells us that this study has merit, but the splashy headlines are a little premature:

“The authors have done a good job and I look forward to seeing further data particularly when the cohort is more established and they have more objective measures (than owner reports) at their disposal.

“Not unexpectedly, there are many weaknesses which, in fairness, the authors do acknowledge in the discussion.”

Stick with What’s Working

So the best advice is to stick with what’s working for you and your furry friend. Fetch by WebMD says that there are several healthy ways to feed your dog. But they go on to say that “it’s best to do it twice daily at 8-12 hour intervals.” In fact, this is the most common recommendation you’ll find.

However, it’s not based on a lot of research, and that’s why German tells us this very preliminary finding is actually interesting:

“This is the first time, to my knowledge, that associations between feeding pattern and health have been examined in dogs. So, it is novel and the study does have merit.”

The bottom line here is simple. Novel research is great. Limitations of observational survey research and self-reports from pet owners are real. So splashy headlines about intermittent fasting diets for dogs are unhelpful.

Click here to read this preprint, here to read the coverage from New Scientist, and here to read a commentary thread from German.

Feeding the Dogs, painting by Adolf Eberle / WikiArt

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


November 27, 2021