(ORDO NEWS) — All dogs are different, and depending on breed, size, age and health, their specific nutritional requirements may also be different, including what and how much they should be fed.
But what about how often? A new study of more than 10,000 dogs offers some startling findings about the apparent link between feeding frequency and dog health, and the main finding is definitely food for thought.
According to the results of the study, adult dogs that are fed only once a day score significantly higher on several health indicators than dogs that are fed more frequently.
“By controlling for sex, age, breed, and other potential factors, we found that dogs fed once a day, rather than more frequently, had lower mean scores on the Cognitive Dysfunction Scale, as well as lower chances of having gastrointestinal, dental, , orthopedic, renal/urinary, and liver/pancreatic diseases,” explains a research team led by first author and canine health researcher Emily Bray of the University of Arizona in the new paper.
The results were derived from data collected from a broad, ongoing canine health study called the Canine Aging Project.
While you should not be in a rush to change your diet just yet, the results suggest that the benefits that seem to come from the time restriction seen so far mostly in rodent laboratory experiments may extend to companion dogs.
The results came as no surprise – even to the scientists who conducted the study.
“We weren’t at all confident that we would see any differences in dog health or cognition depending on feeding frequency,” senior author and biostatistician Kathleen Kerr at the University of Washington explained when the preliminary results were announced in December.
“I think we would be happy to see an association between feeding frequency and health in just one area. I was surprised to see associations in so many areas.”
While the frequency of feeding once a day was associated with better outcomes for dogs in some areas, things were not so clear-cut in other areas. Measures of disease risk in terms of heart, skin, neurological health, and cancer incidence did not show a statistically significant effect.
In addition, the researchers acknowledge a number of limitations that should be considered in their study. All nutritional data was from dog owners, which means they may be subject to errors in their recall and interpretation, and the study was unable to separate the possible impact of calorie restriction (which was not measured in the study) from feeding frequency.
However, despite the limitations, the team says this is the largest feeding frequency study done on companion dogs to date, and there is clearly something going on here to suggest that feeding a dog only once a day is associated with certain benefits. for her health.
Exactly what remains unknown, and the researchers emphasize that the results only show an association, but do not prove a causal relationship – meaning we cannot conclude that lower feeding frequency actually results in better dog health.
For example, there can be many reasons why dogs in poor health are fed more frequently than healthy dogs (such as being fed extra portions for medication), as Bray points out.
Until more is known about the mechanisms behind this apparent phenomenon and subsequent studies can somehow explain the findings, no one should change their dog’s feeding frequency based on this study, the researchers say.
“However, if the results of future studies are confirmed, it may be prudent to reconsider the currently prevailing recommendation to feed adult dogs twice a day,” the group concludes.
“The rationale for feeding dogs twice a day is unclear… and our study suggests that more frequent feeding may not be optimal for several age-specific health outcomes.”
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