A Pet Parent’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting for DogsReading Time: 3 minutes
While it might seem cruel to not to feed your dog for a day, skipping a meal for shorter amounts of time can actually be very beneficial. In fact, it is often used to help manage some chronic diseases in dogs or to prevent them from developing in the first place.
It is believed that therapeutic fasting, aka intermittent fasting for dogs, is a natural way to, among other things, boost their immune system.
Only for Mature and Healthy Dogs!
Fasting is riskier for cats because our feline companions need regular food intake to stay healthy. When cats don’t eat for periods longer than 12 hours something may be amiss and you should take Mittens to the vet!
Before deciding to make your dog fast (and consulting your vet about it, of course), you need to know how fasting works and the benefits are.
New researches have shown that fasting is as beneficial for humans as it is for dogs. However, not all animals or dogs can be put on a fasting regimen. Results can be catastrophic if you fast a dog with diabetes, a young puppy, a dog that suffers from hypoglycemia and other conditions.
Some toy breeds that are prone to developing hyperglycemia shouldn’t be on a fasting nutritional regime either!
What Is Fasting?
Most people think of fasting as an equivalent of starvation, but the truth is that these two really differ. Starvation is when the body has no adequate nutritional intake which leads to using up of all reserves in the body.
This condition damages the cells and tissues in the body which, when untreated, can potentially lead to serious health issues and of course death.
On the other hand, fasting works in a completely different way. You are not starving your dog, but instead, you are creating a nutritional plan that consists of non-fasting and fasting days.
On non-fasting days, your dog will eat a sufficient amount of food in order to maintain their vital muscle and organ function, while on the fasting days your dog doesn’t eat, and can only drink water.
Fasting for Wolves is Part of Life
Wolves, the dog’s closest relative, actually eat in this manner because they do not have constant access to prey and new food each day. Their food intake consists of periods of feast and periods of famine. This cycle of eating and not eating makes their bodies stronger.
If you’re still not convinced about intermittent fasting for dogs, think about it like this: loss of appetite in dogs is often a symptom of illness. When a dog it ill they stop eating so that their body goes into detox mode.
If you think about it, it’s actually quite similar to when you have a fever or a tummy bug.
Not eating for shorter periods of time, is the body’s natural defense mechanism to flush out toxins and use up all the energy to regenerate instead of using it for digestion.
How Does Intermittent Fasting for Dogs Work?
While there are different ways of fasting for a healthy dog, the most commonly used one is intermittent fasting. It consists of not feeding your dog for part of the day.
This means feeding your dog once or twice during a six to eight-hour period, making an 18-hour fast. You can also feed your dog before work and also immediately upon arriving home.
Intermittent fasting is the easiest, and usually the most stress-free way to put your dog on a fasting routine. It is not too severe but still provides your dog with many health benefits.
An alternative to intermittent fasting for dogs is a once-a-week fast. As you can probably guess, there are six days of regular meals, followed by a day in which dogs can drink only water.
What Are The Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting for Dogs?
A lot of vet experts, as well as medical experts, claim that fasting is very beneficial for most living creatures. A study performed on mice discovered that mice that were fed every other day were much healthier and lived much longer to mice that were fed every day.
There are also approaches to treating cancer that rely on the power of fasting. Scientists believe that fasting helps to kill bad cells including tumor cells. This reduces tumor growth and can eventually lead to recovery.
While these are still only hypotheses, other health benefits have been confirmed by various researches. Let’s discover the benefits fasting can provide your dog with:
Enhanced Liver Function
The body isn’t using up its energy to digest large meals on the fasting days. Therefore, the liver takes advantage of the energy availability and works more efficiently to detox the body from the toxic load.
The entire body will have more energy to use on regeneration instead of using it on digestion and absorbing nutrients.
Fasting boosts the metabolism by influencing the digestive processes and cleansing the body from toxins. The body learns to maintain a healthy appetite which regulates the overall state of health.
Also, a faster metabolism makes losing weight much easier for obese dogs.
Fight Bad Bacteria and Viruses
Fasting increases the body’s antibacterial ability by elevating macrophage and neutrophil activity. Macrophages are the first line of defense against the harmful particles. They destroy bacteria, viruses, and other foreign substances. Neutrophils work in a similar manner.
Reduces Amount of Insulin
Intermittent fasting for dogs also reduces insulin levels. It’s a hormone that increases inflammation in the body. Therefore, not eating for a part of the day will reduce systemic inflammation and will improve your dog’s overall health.
Dogs that control inflammation better are more likely to lead a longer life!
Reduces Risk of Cancer
Combined with its antibacterial activity boost, intermittent fasting for dogs also reduces the risk of cancer. It enhances the activity of natural killer cells.
These cells are crucial for killing tumor cells and other cells that are infected with viruses.
Why Fasting Is Difficult for People and Dogs
Our culture makes us food-dependent. This is why it might be hard for us to accept the fact that fasting can actually be very good for you and your dog.
If you decide to research the benefits of fasting, you will discover that a lot of experts say it is not only the best way to boost your immune system, but it also helps in treating some of the most dangerous diseases.
Consult your vet on the best method to do it! Fasting will surely make a positive impact on your dog’s health and longevity.
Also: If you have a breed that is perpetually hungry, like Golden Retrievers, this may not be a good idea. For some dogs, the hours between meals seem to last for a lifetime. Expect some temper tantrums when making a dog like that fast!
The author of this article is Kristina, the editor of Barking Royalty, the website where you can find plenty of useful and reliable information about canines. She has always been a dog person and had dogs since her early childhood. She’s constantly researching and learning about the ways to make dogs healthier and happier. Kristina and her Havanese Paco are inseparable pals and enjoy spending time outdoors.
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