Feed your dog just once a day to prevent future health problems, says study

Feeding your dog once a day could reduce the risk of them suffering age-related health issues, a new study claims. 

Information from more than 20,000 pet owners was gathered by researchers at the University of Washington, in Seattle, via questionnaires to gauge their pets’ cognitive ability and how feeding routines impacted on canine health. 

Owners were asked: “How many times per day is your dog fed?” and researchers grouped these into two categories – “once” or “more than once”. One in 12 dogs were fed once a day, the data show. 

Dogs fed once per day were considered to be inadvertently undergoing intermittent fasting, a common diet fad in humans, in a manner similar to that of wild wolves. 

These scored 0.63 points lower on a test for cognitive dysfunction when compared to those fed more often, indicating superior mental performance. 

“This effect size of 0.63 points is roughly the same difference in mean score between 11-year-old and seven-year-old dogs,” the researchers wrote in their paper, published as a pre-print and not yet peer-reviewed. 

Analysis revealed that being fed once a day lowered a dog’s risk of liver issues by 59 per cent and reduced gastrointestinal disease likelihood by 35 per cent. 

Daily feeding also reduced the odds of kidney/urinary issues, orthopedic problems and dental concerns by 28, 22 and 16 per cent, respectively. 

“This is the largest study to date of feeding frequency conducted in companion dogs,” the researchers 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.

“However, if supported by future studies, it may be prudent to revisit the currently predominant recommendation that adult dogs be fed twice daily.

“The rationale for twice-daily feeding in dogs is obscure, and our study suggests that more frequent feeding may, in fact, be suboptimal for several age-related health outcomes.”

Most owners ‘choose a meal pattern that suits their dog and lifestyle’

Dr Alex German, a vet based at the University of Liverpool, said the findings should be approached with caution as they may change during the publication process. However, he believes the study was sufficiently large and statistically sound.

He also noted the study was observational, so determining the mechanism underpinning why certain feeding patterns may or may not be better for pets is impossible. 

"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. 7/20

— ALEX GERMAN (@TheFatVet) November 26, 2021

“As for what feeding pattern is best for dogs, no one knows, as there are few (if any) previous studies exploring this. For that reason, most owners likely choose a meal pattern that suits their dog and lifestyle,” he said in a lengthy Twitter thread. 

“I am hopeful that the authors of this pre-print will continue to explore this topic and, in time, we might have more robust data on which to make future recommendations."

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