Many dog owners wonder if feeding their dog once a day is beneficial or even cruel.
I was one of them and started the canine equivalent of “intermittent fasting” with my 100lb Rottweiler.
FYI: The scientific jury is still out on whether or not feeding once a day is optimal. Although there are some studies, there are still no large-scale and peer-reviewed studies published in journals.
That said, some dogs cannot do this.
If your dog is constantly vomiting while being fed once a day, this is a clear sign that this feeding schedule is not made for your specific dog.
My Rottweiler very rarely threw up when the time between feeds was too long (on the other hand, he always loved his food and rarely left a crumb in the bowl).
However, some dog owners claim that they have seen tremendous improvements after fasting their dogs.
It is up to you and perhaps your vet to assess whether or not your dog is the right candidate.
On the one hand, a healthy large breed adult dog may be able to try or even prefer it.
On the other hand, if you have a puppy, senior small dog, or otherwise unsuitable dog, you may need to rethink your feeding schedule and stick to 2-3 times a day.
Let’s take a look at how you can determine whether or not it is worth trying to feed your dog once a day for your individual.
Is it cruel to feed a dog once a day?
It is generally not cruel to occasionally feed a healthy adult dog once a day, but that meal should be adequately sized and balanced. Also, it is essential to promptly identify any problems with that feeding schedule as many dogs do not do well with feeding once a day.
Age is an important component in determining whether feeding once a day is right for your dog or not.
Puppies have shorter windows for when they need nutritional feeding, and feeding a puppy once (or even twice) a day is not good for their health.
First of all, your puppy probably can’t eat the entire meal at once.
Secondly, your puppy will lack energy between naps where puppies usually regenerate until the next burst of energy.
If your dog is a senior, he may also have problems with one meal a day as he will lack energy for much of the day and will not be able to digest a large meal.
The same goes for dogs with pre-existing health conditions.
You may need to talk to your vet about this, but in general, if you are unsure, feed your dog 2-3 times a day and you should be good.
You probably shouldn’t feed your dog once a day if any of the following conditions apply:
- The dog is elderly or sick
- You have a puppy (needs to feed him 3-4 times a day)
- Feeding once a day was already taking place for several days in a row
- Your dog has problems with a meal once a day (vomiting, lethargic, intestinal problems)
However, for those of you who just want to try feeding once a day, or maybe have done so in the past on peak days or something and are wondering if that’s actually a good idea or not, let’s dive deeper.
Pros and cons of feeding your dog once a day
Some dog owners who feed once a day claim that their dog’s gut health or immune system has improved as well as their appetite, but there can be significant drawbacks as well.
Other dogs simply gurgle that white frothy vomit (the color of the vomit is actually essential for verifying the reason for the vomit).
First, the benefits of feeding your dog once a day:
- Improved gut health
- Stronger immune system
- More interest in eating the rest of the week
- Less risk of swelling, especially on peak days
- It resembles the wolf feeding pattern
- More convenient for the dog owner
As mentioned above, you should note that gut health and boosting the immune system are not scientifically proven beyond doubt.
That said, your dog’s gut health could very well be positively impacted as this feeding schedule is much more like what they would do in nature.
Others argue that dogs are no longer wolves and domestication has gone a long way, including their eating habits.
Fasting doesn’t necessarily mean your dog needs fewer calories, but even if the weekly nutrient intake is the same, intermittent fasting can have positive effects.
It works for many humans who are trying to lose weight and can be a great tool for overweight dogs as well.
You shouldn’t overdo and feed more in one session than you would otherwise throughout the day.
Some dog owners go so far as to fast their dogs twice a day.
Personally, skipping two days is not for me and even if I fasted my Rottweiler, I would still provide her with something to eat other than raw meat (always the benefit of having her gut reset).
All of this is good and good, but there are also possible downsides to consider.
The cons of feeding your dog once a day are as follows:
- Lack of nutritional balance for prolonged periods
- Vomiting can lead to other health problems
- The dog may not be able to eat the entire meal (or will devour it too quickly)
- It can cause confusion about the feeding schedule
Some of these problems like nutritional balance and not eating the whole meal can be easily solved.
If you control your dog’s food intake and he eats the meal with no problem, he is probably okay about it (it may not be the best solution for you anyway).
However, the vomiting is a little more difficult to control and although it may just be the adjustment period, it should be monitored closely and consulted with your vet.
Last but not least, your dog will likely be confused.
Think about it, nobody tells you anything and suddenly there is a whole day without food. Will there ever be another meal? Will you starve? Have you been forgotten?
This is what my Rottweiler’s eyes convey, even if I’m just skipping a meal.
Another note: it rarely happens, but when I travel with my dog, it can happen that there is not enough time for two meals.
By that, I don’t mean actual eating, but also time for her to eat in a calm environment and have time to settle down afterwards.
The worst thing that can happen is bloat when exercising with your dog right after eating and if you have to choose I would go without a meal or just provide a really light one.
The best time to feed the dog once a day
The best time to feed your dog once a day is when the last meal has been given 12 hours before and the next meal is given 24 hours later or vice versa (most likely morning or evening) or spread the time between meals in evenly and feed in the middle of the day.
This schedule assumes that you have fed your dog twice a day before and after that day where you will only feed him once a day.
If you only feed your dog once a day as part of your regular feeding schedule, choose a time like noon and stick to it every day.
A couple of examples:
- Feed your dog on Monday at 8pm, then at 8am on Tuesday morning and again at 8am on Wednesday morning
- Feed your dog at 8pm Mon, then at 8pm Tue and 8am Wednesday
- Feed your dog at 8pm Mon, then 2pm Tue and 8am Wednesday
- If you feed once a day, stick to 2pm every day, for example
Your dog’s specific feeding schedule will obviously vary a lot.
When you go to bed and wake up you will decide at what time your morning and evening meals should be served and not everyone can feed their dog in the middle of the day.
I can feed my dog 3 times a day
Yes, you can feed your dog 3 times a day and for puppies, seniors and dogs with some health conditions it is actually the most recommended feeding schedule.
Even if you have a healthy adult dog, you can still opt for feeding three times a day if your dog thrives on this.
Some dogs can’t go the whole day without a meal, and for some time I’ve been offering my Rottweiler a mid-day treat to keep his stomach from growling.
However, the downside to providing a large mid-day meal is the risk of bloating, so be careful.
Also, don’t let those puppy eyes fool you into making you a third meal even if it’s not necessary. Especially not if it’s an additional meal on top.
The best time to feed a dog
The best time to feed your dog depends entirely on how often you feed him, but you need to make sure the time between meals doesn’t exceed 12-24 hours at the most.
The feeding schedules mentioned above can serve as a starting point for you.
Most dog owners will choose to feed in the morning and evening.
Make sure it’s not right before bed and give your dog a chance to potty).
You should feed your dog before or after walks
If possible, avoid feeding your dog before walks for about an hour and let your dog calm down for a short time after walks to digest food properly.
Since the risk of swelling and other problems is more prevalent with feeding before walks, I would personally recommend feeding the dog after the walk.
How to change your dog’s feeding schedule
Any changes in diet – and this includes the feeding schedule itself – should be slowly modified and carefully monitored. Take a step back if your dog is unwell.
It is unwise to go from 3 feedings a day to 1 meal the next day and your dog will likely vomit or show other signs of hunger.
Try providing two meals instead, and once your dog is comfortable with that (a couple of days or maybe weeks), make the second meal lighter.
At some point, you may only be feeding one snack as a second meal, and soon you may be switching to just one feed.
Whether or not one meal a day is ideal for your dog is totally up to you and if you’re unsure, consult your vet.
Science isn’t quite one way or the other, so it’s up to you, but cruel isn’t the appropriate word as long as the diet is balanced and your dog gets all of his calories.
Believe me, my Rottweiler wouldn’t let that transgression slip, and maybe your dog too will show clear signs of what feeding times are best for him.