The voracious appetites of dogs seemingly know no bounds, so as guardians it’s down to humans to work out the best type and volume of food to feed domestic canines. Recent research claimed there were benefits to a vegan diet, and now a new paper has suggested that just one meal a day could be optimal.
Intermittent fasting is something that’s long been practiced by humans in certain parts of the globe but has recently seen an uptake as scientists debate its potential role in mediating the effects of aging. This new research published in GeroScience asks if similar benefits could be seen among domestic dogs.
The Dog Aging Project, launched in 2019, has been gathering data on doggy diets and cognitive function, plus nine other categories of health. Information gathered on over 10,000 dogs was then analyzed to look for associations between diet and health profiles.
One meal a day was found to be associated with lower levels of health problems surrounding cognitive, kidney, and liver function plus fewer dental and gastrointestinal issues. While the correlation can’t be inferred as causation, it could be an indicator that intermittent fasting has similar benefits for dogs as those seen in mouse studies.
"We weren't confident at all that we would see any differences in dogs' health or cognition based on feeding frequency," senior author and biostatistician Kathleen Kerr from the University of Washington said in a statement.
"I think we would have been excited to see an association between feeding frequency and health in just one domain. I was surprised to see associations in so many domains."
Each dog is different, and therefore establishing the best diet for them should be seen as an individualistic process – but it could be that traditionally held diets consisting of multiple meals a day might not be the best option. The authors hope next to look at the long-term effects of different diets on domestic doggos.
“We find that once-daily feeding is associated with better health in multiple domains,” they concluded. “Future research with longitudinal data can provide stronger evidence for a possible causal effect of feeding frequency on health in companion dogs.”
As for how dogs might feel about the news, previous research has found that Labradors – the domestic dogs most prone to obesity – commonly have a genetic variant that alters how their brain registers feelings of fullness or hunger. The result is food-obsessed pooches who may never seem satisfied after several meals, let alone just one.
We hope Bray et al 2022 are ready. Hell hath no fury like a hungry Labrador scorned.