How Long Should You Fast Your Own Dog?
There are many ways to fast a healthy dog. One of the most common ways to reap the benefits of rest from food is intermittent fasting, which involves intentionally not feeding your dog for part of the day.
Many people incorrectly assume their carnivorous pet should be nibbling or grazing all day like vegan ruminants such as cows and horses. This is a recipe for metabolic dysfunction over time, in my opinion, especially if pets are nibbling on starchy kibble or snacks throughout the day.
Intermittent fasting means you feed your dog one or two square meals a day, but both meals within a six- to eight-hour period. For example, the first meal at noon and the second meal at 6:00 pm, effectively creating an 18-hour fast. At my house, I only feed my dogs once a day, so my babies fast the majority of the day (and are healthier for it!).
You can also feed your pet just before you leave for work, and again immediately upon arriving home, effectively creating a 10-to 12-hour fast.
Paws For Change Director Daniel Orrego points to the fact many dogs already choose to naturally fast throughout the day, yet owners panic when this happens. For example, many dogs don’t want to eat breakfast, but their owners force caloric intake when the dog’s body is doing what it naturally should, which is to fast.
What we know to be true is that dogs were not wired (or evolutionarily adapted) to eat three meals a day. There are numerous lab animal studies that point to increased longevity and decreased disease potential when animals consume the same number of calories over time, but distributed in a more natural evolutionary pattern.
For instance, if a dog requires 3500 calories a week to maintain a healthy body weight, is there a difference (metabolically) if they consume 500 calories once a day for a week or 250 calories twice a day for a week, versus 1000 calories every other day?
Research shows there is a huge difference, in terms of health outcomes, longevity and overall wellness. In essence, it matters not only what we feed, in terms of macronutrient ratios and form of food (high heat-processed versus minimally processed or raw), but how much we feed and how often we feed that ultimately creates health or disease. The more closely we mimic nature, the healthier we all are.
An alternative to intermittent fasting that many people have utilized for years is a once-a-week fast, which for healthy adult dogs means six days of regular meals, followed by a 24-hour period of water only.
Some people choose to offer a big meaty bone on fast day, which really isn’t a true fast, but still results in substantially fewer calories being ingested in a 24 hour period, which results in increased autophagy, less insulin secretion, less organ stress and less inflammation generated for that day, which is incredibly beneficial over a lifetime.
I strongly encourage you to consult with your holistic or integrative veterinarian if you're considering fasting your dog for optimal health, wellness and longevity. Of course, all fasts only involve restriction of food, never pure drinking water.