Therapeutic fasting is something many health-conscious people do regularly, but it’s not something that’s often talked about as a way to improve dogs’ health.
But it might be something to consider.
Most people feed their dogs twice a day. This means that most of the time, the dog’s digestive system is constantly working to digest food. However, one of the main functions of the digestive system is immune function. If the digestive system is always dealing with food, there’s no time for “housekeeping.”
Modern dogs aren’t wolves, but it’s worth noting that wolves are adapted to a feast-or-famine way of eating. The hunt isn’t always successful.
Research shows that intermittent fasting and reduced calorie intake is actually far healthier than a consistent, calorie-rich diet. It can prevent high blood pressure and heart disease, kidney disease, age-related cognitive decline, skin conditions, liver disease, arthritis, diabetes, and even cancer.
Intermittent Fasting For Dogs – The Wrong Way
Here are some myths about therapeutic fasting, and what people do wrong (which is why many will swear that it doesn’t work or even causes problems):
- Myth: “Fasting is starvation.” No, it’s not. Therapeutic fasting is a short break from eating, that’s all. You are not depriving your dog of food for days on end!
- Wrong approach: “Fasting will cure disease so I’m going to fast my sick dog.” Fasting won’t cure disease. It can prevent disease because fasting causes the body to metabolize fat. This is important because a lot of waste products and toxins are stored in fat, including anything the liver can’t process. When the fat is metabolized, the stored waste is eliminated. Waste and toxin elimination is necessary to detox the body and support the immune system.
- Wrong approach: “Fasting is good for all dogs.” No, it’s not. Fasting should only be used on healthy adult dogs, never on puppies, geriatric dogs, dogs on a special vet-recommended diet, or sick dogs.
Intermittent Fasting For Dogs – The Right Way
For a healthy adult dog, the trick is having an irregular feeding schedule that includes some days of reduced food, and some days of no food. This gives their digestive systems a break, and it also has the amazing and delightful bonus of preventing the anxiety and bad behavior that can surround meal time. Your dogs will actually stop waking you up at the crack of dawn for breakfast, if they aren’t sure it’s coming!
All you have to do is mix it up. Some days, feed them twice a day. Some days, feed them once a day. Some days, give them Raw Bones to keep them busy, and that’s it.
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- Don’t give in to the puppy dog eyes. They’re not starving, any more than you would starve if you missed a meal.
- Make sure they have free access to fresh water at all times!
- Don’t fast or restrict their calories on heavy activity days.
- Save fasting for a day when you’re busy in the yard or working on a project at home. Interact with your dog, but ignore requests for food. The dog doesn’t have to be the center of the universe every second… being around you is reassuring, and if they’re busy “helping” you they’ll be less anxious about dinner.
Double the Fun: Fast With Your Dog!
This is my favorite technique. Fast with your dog! Why not, right? It’s easier on them if you’re not eating either, and you get to experience for yourself that skipping a meal or a few meals is not that hard. It’s really a matter of overcoming conditioning. When you’re used to three squares a day (plus snacks) it may be scary to contemplate not eating every couple of hours. But trust me, your body will thank you.
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Here’s how you and your dog can ease into intermittent fasting:
- Once every couple of days, skip a meal. I recommend skipping dinner and never breakfast, since “breakfast fuels the day, and dinner fuels sleep.” Once you’re comfortable skipping a meal…
- On a low-activity day, try skipping two meals (lunch and dinner). Start the day off with a good breakfast so you won’t feel deprived. Keep yourself and your dog busy but not with high-energy physical activities. A nice easy walk will do. Once you’re used to that…
- On a low-activity day, try not eating at all for the whole day. If you absolutely can’t manage, then have a mid-day smoothie… give your dog a bone… and keep your mind busy. Once you can manage comfortably to not eat for one day…
- Mix it up! Have a two-meal day, a one-meal day, and a no-meal day each week, whenever it suits your schedule. That still leaves four days of normal eating!
Success tip: on skipped-meal days, don’t skip breakfast. Always remember, “breakfast fuels the day, dinner fuels sleep.” And make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day, both to help you feel full, and to flush out waste and toxins from your body.
After a month of intermittent fasting and skipped meals you and your dog will both be used to it and you’ll both feel better!
While therapeutic fasting takes a little getting used to, the long-term health benefits—including a feeling of “clean energy” in your body—can be astonishing. You can be sure that your dog is feeling it too!
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Please consult with your veterinarian if you’re contemplating a therapeutic fast for your dog.
Intermittent Fasting For Dogs – Have you tried it? Please share your experience or thoughts with us!