Who worked on this research?
Dog Aging Project Consortium
Where was it published?
GeroScience, the official journal of the American Aging Association (AGE)
What is this paper about?
In this paper, we used data collected from the Dog Aging Project Pack to better understand the relationship between our dogs’ health and their diet—and specifically, how often they are fed each day. This work was motivated by data in laboratory rodents showing intermittent fasting can lead to better health and cognitive outcomes.
Intermittent fasting involves following a schedule of eating that alternates between periods of eating and periods of fasting. The focus is on when someone eats and the duration of time between meals, as opposed to what or how much someone eats. It is hypothesized to promote adaptive responses that improve how cells function.
Since some pet owners choose to feed their dog one time per day and others choose to feed their dogs more often, we were able to use this variation in feeding frequency as a natural model for intermittent fasting and time-restricted feeding. We then looked at how feeding frequency was associated with owner-reported health measures from the Annual Follow-Up Survey that Pack members complete, including information about diseases (e.g., gastrointestinal, dental, and orthopedic disorders) and cognitive dysfunction.
What do these results mean for me and my dog?
Our initial hypothesis was that intermittent fasting promotes better health outcomes in dogs. And strikingly, we did find associations consistent with the idea that less frequent feeding could lead to better health. So does this mean that feeding frequency is causing dogs to be healthier? Not necessarily!
Even though the data are consistent with our hypothesis, the design of the current study can’t “prove” less frequent feeding leads to better health. It is equally possible that dogs in poor health need to eat more frequently. There are many reasons why dogs with worse health might be fed more frequently (e.g., they need to eat when taking medicine).
Additionally, in our current study design, we also couldn’t tease apart the effect of feeding frequency and overall calorie intake. Do dogs who are fed less frequently also eat less than dogs who are fed more frequently, or are they getting one extra big meal? Bottom line, we see this work as an intriguing, hypothesis-generating first step that will hopefully spark more research with longitudinal data collected from Pack members who complete the Annual Follow-Up Survey every year.
In the meantime, given the above limitations (and the variety of clinical factors that can inform feeding decisions), the findings from this paper are not an endorsement for how frequently to feed your dog.
Even if we do eventually find that eating once per day as opposed to more frequently makes a dog healthier, there are obviously other considerations that might come into play for any individual dog, including their preference, expectations, and quality of life!
Where can I learn more?
Bray EE, Zheng Z, Tolbert MK, McCoy BM; Dog Aging Project Consortium, Kaeberlein M, Kerr KF. Once-daily feeding is associated with better health in companion dogs: results from the Dog Aging Project. GeroScience. 2022 Apr 28. DOI: 10.1007/s11357-022-00575-7. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35484470.
A variety of diets have been studied for possible anti-aging effects. In particular, studies of intermittent fasting and time-restricted feeding in laboratory rodents have found evidence of beneficial health outcomes. Companion dogs represent a unique opportunity to study diet in a large mammal that shares human environments. The Dog Aging Project has been collecting data on thousands of companion dogs of all different ages, sizes, and breeds since 2019. We leveraged this diverse cross-sectional dataset to investigate associations between feeding frequency and cognitive function (n = 10,474) as well as nine broad categories of health conditions (n = 24,238). Controlling for sex, age, breed, and other potential confounders, we found that dogs fed once daily rather than more frequently had lower mean scores on a cognitive dysfunction scale, and lower odds of having gastrointestinal, dental, orthopedic, kidney/urinary, and liver/pancreas disorders. Therefore, we find that once-daily feeding is associated with better health in multiple domains. Future research with longitudinal data can provide stronger evidence for a possible causal effect of feeding frequency on health in companion dogs.Tags: Scientific Results