Dogs that are only fed once per day may be less likely to go to develop age-related conditions like gastrointestinal, orthopaedic and liver disorders, a study has found.

University of Arizona experts examined data from more than 24,000 pets dogs to find links between their feeding habits, cognitive function and other health outcomes.

Canines may benefit from less frequent feeding, the researchers said, because of their hunting origins — with their wolf ancestors often going for days without food.

The team cautioned that more research is needed to confirm the findings and it’s too soon to suggest that owners alter their dog’s feeding habits.

Dogs that are only fed once per day may be less likely to go to develop age-related conditions like gastrointestinal, orthopaedic and liver disorders, a study has found (stock image)

Study has shown that dogs fed less than once per day are more likely to have age-related problems like gastroenteritis and orthopaedic disorders.

University of Arizona-led experts analysed data on more than 24,000 pet dogs for links between feeding rates and both cognitive function and health outcomes. Pictured: the team found that dogs fed once daily experienced lower odds of developing nine different broad types of age-related health complications than those fed more frequently

University of Arizona experts examined data from more than 24,000 pets dogs to determine if there were any correlations between their feeding habits and cognitive functions and the health of the animals. Pictured: Researchers found that pets who were only fed one day per week had lower risk of nine types of age-related diseases.


The researchers disagree. They believe that more research is needed to establish causality between meal frequency and good health.

For example, the team explained, their study did not assess how much each dog was eating daily — and therefore it could be that dogs being fed twice daily were experiencing worse health outcomes as a result of being fed more, not more often.

A veterinary specialist should be consulted if you have any doubts about how often or when you should feed your pet. 

Emily Bray, a University of Arizona dog cognition specialist and her collaborators conducted the research.

The team stated that caloric restriction was known for its ability to prolong lifespans and prevent age-associated diseases in animals. They also noted in the paper that it may have some benefits for humans.

The ‘Companion dog is a powerful model that can help us understand how diet affects health.

‘Once-daily feeding in dogs serves as a natural model for the intermittent fasting/time-restricted feeding protocols currently being studied both in preclinical rodent models and in human trials.’

The researchers analysed data from the Dog Aging Project, a US initiative launched by paper author and University of Washington biologist Matt Kaeberlein in 2019 that aims to explore the genetic and environmental causes of canine aging.

Participants in this project are required to complete an annual survey on their dogs’ activity, nutrition, medications, and social environments.

Dr Bray and colleagues were thus able to compare the effect of different feeding regimes on nine different broad health categories including cardiac, dental and neurological health for 24,238 pet dogs.

Additionally, the team evaluated the impact of feeding frequency on cognitive function for a smaller subset of 10,474 canines.  

Researchers found that dogs fed only once per day had lower cognitive scores than their counterparts who received twice as much.

Similarly, canines that were only given one meal a day also appeared to exhibit lower odds of developing dental, gastrointestinal, kidney/urinary, liver/pancreas and orthopaedic disorders.

The team stated that their research showed that dogs fed once a day have a positive effect on health in multiple areas.

‘In my view, it’s pretty compelling correlative evidence,’ Professor Kaeberlein told the New Scientist, but cautioned that the study has not established a causal link, and that other factors, like the amount that the dogs eat overall, may also be in play.

He stated that based on his study, he did not recommend people change the way they were feeding their dogs.

The team has warned that further studies are needed to validate the findings — and that it is too early to recommend owners change their dogs' feeding regimens (stock image)

The team has warned that further studies are needed to validate the findings — and that it is too early to recommend owners change their dogs’ feeding regimens (stock image)

After controlling for confounding factors like age, breed and sex, the researchers found that dogs that were fed once daily had lower scores on a test of cognitive issues (pictured, where darker points represent dogs fed once daily, while the other points are those fed more often)

Researchers adjusted for age, breed, and sexuality to determine that dogs given one-time meals had lower cognitive scores.

Alex German from the University of Liverpool told The New Scientist that the strengths of the study were the high numbers and solid statistical methods.

However, he cautioned, ‘people shouldn’t change the way they feed their dogs until further studies are done.’

In the future, the researchers are hoping to explore the impact of how much — as well as how often — pet dogs eat, as well as the role that obesity might play in the development of age-related canine health conditions.

The bioRxiv repository contains a preprint version of the researcher’s article that has yet to be peer-reviewed.

More information on the Dog Aging Project — which aims to expand to include international participants next year — can be found on their website.  


An analysis of DNA from the oldest dog remains in existence revealed that domestication was done by Eurasia’s humans around 20,000-40,000 years ago.

MailOnline spoke with Dr Krishna Veeramah of Stony Brook University as an assistant professor in evolutionary biology. He said that the process of domesticating dogs would have involved a lot of different generations and signature characteristics had evolved slowly.

“The current hypothesis suggests that dogs were domesticated passively. A population of wolves could exist in some part of the world, living near hunter-gatherer camp scavenging refuse from the humans.

The wolf that is calmer and less aggressive will be more successful. Although the human beings did not gain anything at first, it was clear that they would eventually form a kind of synergy. [mutually beneficial]These dogs have become part of our daily lives.