The idea of intermittent fasting has been in vogue for a while, particularly in the human realm. In recent years, even more information has come out about the healing power of giving the digestive system a rest. I personally have used the practice, and I know several friends that do as well. I also recommend intermittent fasting for dogs.
But I’ve found that when the topic of intermittent fasting comes up for our furry friends, there is significant resistance to the idea. It is hard to imagine any perceived suffering of our beloved pets.
But, here’s the thing…we have to ask if there is actual suffering going on.
The reality is that when you change your dog’s routine, you will see a change in their behavior. If your dog is used to being fed at a particular time (or times) each day, they come to know the routine and they respond by displaying certain behavior at that time. Over time, those behaviors became habits.
The dog may go to their bowl, or hang closer to you. Perhaps they lay in front of the cabinet that contains their food. We tend to interpret these behaviors as signs of hunger or disappointment…but what if it’s just a habit? And what if you switched the routine?
Instead of filling the food bowl, try doing something fun with your dog. You could go to a favorite hiking trail and enjoy nature together. Or head to the yard or park for a game of fetch. You could even just spend some time grooming, petting, and providing a nice massage for Fido. By changing the routine, you change the habit and the behavior then shifts.
Dogs are social animals. Spending some time with their favorite humans is a good trade off for missing a meal. No more guilt about skipping that meal. When you weigh that alongside the potential benefits that fasting may have for improving health, I believe it is well worth it.
If the idea of intermittent fasting for dogs is new to you, here are just a few of the health benefits:
- It can help to reduce weight. Studies show that leanness is correlated to longevity in both humans and dogs.
- Fasting triggers a metabolic pathway called autophagy, which removes waste materials from the cells. In short, getting the “bad stuff” out of the body more efficiently.
- Studies show that intermittent fasting can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. This reduction has benefits that reduce the risk of numerous diseases, including cancer.
Feeding our dogs a high quality, fresh food diet is also part of the strategy for improving their health. We all would like our dogs to live longer and if skipping some meals and going for more walks means I get to keep my dogs around for even longer, I’m in.