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Is It Cruel To Feed a Dog Once a Day? Feeding Times 101

While some dog owners deem feeding once per day cruel, others assume it’s the healthiest option.

My Rottweiler went from 3 to 2 feedings when she was around six months.

But then I read about the dog equivalent of “intermittent fasting” and wondered if there were any health benefits to “skipping” one feeding now and then.

Naturally, the portion size increases as the caloric intake stays roughly the same.

After all, it shouldn’t be a diet.

Fast forward, I’ve decided to dive deeper to find out if feeding once per day would be suitable for my dog.

Spoiler alert: Feeding once per did kinda backfire, at least for me.

I found out that my dog has certain needs when it comes to feeding frequency and yours might have those needs too.

Feeding once per day can be great for some, but terrible for others, especially if your dog is suffering from medical issues.

FYI: Current consensus is that feeding twice per day is optimal. But the scientific jury is still out on what constitutes the optimal feeding schedule.

We do have one large-scale study that concludes feeding once per day might be beneficial but this comes with a few caveats. It’s an interesting discussion starter for sure.

That being said, some dogs just can’t do it.

My Rottweiler was vomiting when the time between feedings was too long.

Well, she always did love her food and rarely left a crump in her bowl.

My Rottweiler Amalia as a puppy sleeping head-first in her food bowl.
Photo by Pawleaks

If your dog is vomiting continuously while being fed once a day, that’s a clear sign this feeding schedule isn’t made for your specific pooch.

It’s up to you and perhaps your board-certified veterinary nutritionist to evaluate whether or not your dog is the right candidate.

On one hand, a healthy adult large-breed dog may be able to go for it or even prefer it.

On the other hand, if you have a puppy, senior, or otherwise unsuitable dog, you may need to rethink the feeding schedule and stick to feeding 2-3x per day.

Let’s have a look at how you can determine whether or not feeding your dog once per day might be worth a try for your individual.

Is It Cruel To Feed a Dog Once a Day?

It is not generally cruel to feed a healthy adult dog once a day occasionally but that meal should be appropriately sized and balanced. Monitor the feeding schedule since many dogs don’t do well with once-a-day feeding.

Age and health are huge components in whether feeding once a day is okay for your dog or not.

Puppies have shorter windows for when they need nutritional power and feeding a puppy once (or even twice) per day is not beneficial for their development.

First of all, most pups can’t manage to eat the entire meal in one sitting consistently.

Secondly, your pup will be missing energy in between the naps where puppies usually regenerate until the next burst of energy.

Puppy sits next to a small puddle of white dog vomit.
Photo by cunaplus on Shutterstock

If your dog is a senior, he may also have trouble with one meal per day since he might not be able to digest a large meal at once and lack energy for a major part of the day.

The same goes for dogs with pre-existing health conditions.

You may need to talk to your veterinary nutritionist about that but generally speaking, feeding a healthy adult dog twice per day is considered best practice.

So feeding once per day is probably best avoided for dogs who fit the following criteria:

  • Senior
  • Puppy (3-4x meals per day instead)
  • Some medical conditions
  • Dog experiences issues with one meal (vomiting, lethargy, gut issues)

However, some of you just want to try out feeding once a day with a healthy dog or maybe you’ve done it in the past on busy days.

Let’s dive deeper into the pros and cons of feeding once per day.

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 improved as well as their appetite but the opposite could happen too.

Other dogs just gurgle up white foamy vomit (the vomit color is actually very telling in regards to the cause).

Let’s examine the pros and cons.

Improved gut healthVomiting
Stronger immune systemIncreased bloating risk
Resembles feeding pattern of wolvesDogs are domesticated
Increased interest in eatingUnable to finish meals
More convenient for dog ownersConfusion around feeding schedule

As mentioned above, you should note that gut health and immune system boosts are not scientifically proven yet.

That being said, your dog’s gut health may very well be positively affected as this feeding schedule is a lot more similar to what they’d do in the wild.

Others argue that dogs are not wolves anymore and domestication went a long way which includes their eating habits.

Improvements to gut health and immune system are strongly discussed among raw diet proponents who fast their dogs for a full day.

Fasting doesn’t necessarily mean your dog gets fewer calories but again, it means increased portion sizes.

Whatever you do, don’t go overboard and feed more in one session than you would otherwise over the whole day.

If you monitor your dog’s food intake and he does eat the meal without any issues, he’s probably okay in that regard (might still not be the best solution for you though).

However, vomiting signals an underlying issue.

Vomiting is usually accompanied by the inability to finish the meals reliably as well as a drop in appetite in general.

While it can just be the adjustment period, you need to monitor this closely and consult your vet.

Last but not least, your dog will probably be confused.

Think about it, nobody’s telling you anything and suddenly there’s a whole day without food.

Will there ever be another meal? Will you starve? Have you been forgotten?

That’s what my Rottweiler’s eyes are conveying, even if I’m just skipping one meal.

On another note: My dog skips her morning meal on road trips which is beneficial for a couple of reasons.

This way, you avoid the risk of your dog vomiting in the car as well as bloating. Also, your dog is not as sluggish in the morning.

If I have to choose between gut issues, vomiting, or bloat and an empty stomach, I’d go without a meal or just provide a really light one.

Here are the findings of the study I mentioned above:

(…) 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.

Once-daily feeding is associated with better health in companion dogs: results from the Dog Aging Project

A couple of caveats to this study among 10,000+ canines.

  • All data is owner-reported
  • Study does not account for snacks & treats
  • No info on caloric intake (dogs fed once might just get less food)
  • Skews toward dry, commercial food (>80%)
  • Most dogs were neutered/spayed

Best Time To Feed Dog Once a Day

The best time to feed your dog once a day is when the last meal was given 12 hours before and the next meal is given 24 hours after or vice versa (most likely morning or evening) or distribute the time between meals evenly and feed mid-day.

This schedule assumes that you’ve been and will be feeding your dog twice a day before and after that day where you only feed once a day.

If you feed your dog only once a day as part of your regular feeding schedule, just choose a time such as noon and stick to it every day.

A couple of examples (assuming 2x meals on Monday & Wednesday but you still want that “fasting” period in between):

  1. You feed your dog 8 pm on Monday, then 8 am on a Tuesday morning, and again 8 am on Wednesday morning
  2. You feed your dog 8 pm Mon, then 8 pm Tue, and 8 am Wed
  3. You feed your dog 8 pm Mon, then 2 pm Tue, and 8 am Wed

If you feed once a day, stick to 2 pm every day, for example

Your dog’s specific feeding schedule will of course vary a lot.

When you go to bed and wake up will decide what time your morning and evening meals should be served and not everybody is able to feed their dog in the middle of the day.

Can I 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’s actually the recommended feeding schedule.

Even if you have a healthy adult dog, you can still opt for feeding three times a day if your doggo thrives on that.

Some dogs just can’t go the whole day without a meal and for some time, I’ve given my Rottweiler a treat in the middle of the day to avoid her stomach growling.

Beware of a bloating risk if your schedule doesn’t allow 3 feedings with sufficient time to eat and settle afterward.

Also, don’t let those puppy eyes fool you into giving a third meal if it’s not necessary. Especially not if it’s an additional meal on top.

Best Time To Feed a Dog

The best time to feed your dog depends entirely on how often you feed your dog but you need to make sure the time in between meals isn’t longer than 12-24 hours at the max.

The mentioned feeding schedules above can act as a starting point for you.

Most dog owners will opt for feeding right in the morning and in the evening.

Make sure it’s not right before going to bed though and give your dog the chance to go potty.

Should You Feed Your Dog Before Or After Walks

If possible, avoid feeding your dog before walks for around an hour and let your dog calm down for a short period after walks to properly digest the food.

Since the risk of bloat and other issues is more prevalent with feeding before walks, I’d personally recommend feeding your dog after the walk.

How To Change Dog Feeding Schedule

Every dietary change – and that includes the feeding schedule itself – should be slowly changed and closely monitored. Take a step back if your dog is not doing well.

It’s not wise 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 fine with that (a couple of days or perhaps weeks), make the second meal lighter.

At some point, you’d be able to feed just a snack as the second meal. Soon, you could transition to just one feeding.

Whether or not one meal per day is ideal for your dog is totally up to you and if you’re unsure, consult your vet.

The science is not entirely on one side 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 his calories.

Trust me, my Rottweiler wouldn’t let that transgression slide, and perhaps your dog will show clear signs of what feeding times are best for him too.

Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.

About Danielle

Equipped with 5+ years of expertise as a Rottweiler owner, I partner with licensed veterinarians and trainers to share research-backed and actionable advice for you and your furry friend.


Friday 17th of February 2023

We have always fed our dog one meal a day. He gets two small anti allergy enzyme nugge treats late in the morning, then his Science Diet Chicken and Barley meal by 4 PM. He is an extremely healthy, energetic, normal weight, and youthful appearing dog of 14 year old senior dog. Autophagy via restricted time feeding real.


Saturday 10th of December 2022

No. 1 daily meal is not at all cruel. It has major health advantages. Also dogs that eat often can become food obsessed, living to eat vs eating to live. A good dog parent can tell when an extra snack or treat is in order. My many dogs never acted deprived and decades of vets never recommended feeding more often unless illness or tolerating only small amounts of food required a change. The so-called "cons" stated do not go hand in hand with feeding a dog once daily. Most of my friends and family feed once daily but for those with very small dogs that tend to pick at food through day. (obviously growing puppies and dogs with special health needs require more frequent intake) Once a day meals should not cause: lack of nutritional balance Vomiting (unless dog has bilious syndrome, BVS, then a late night meal plus early am snack helps) Not eating whole meal occasionally shouldn't be a problem if dog maintains a normal weight Confusion is not an issue if you gradually change feeding schedule Wolfing down meal is never good and preventable if change is gradual. Any dog that tends to eat too fast should use special bowls made to spread out meal.

My many dogs never had any of these problems. I only mentioned pugs in comment below because I'd just seen a UK article saying Pugs only live 7 yrs on average, where mine got to 15 and just shy of it. People too often put their affect onto a pet. "If I have 3 meals a day so should my dog". That's not supported by science and history. It's mostly dog food companies advising multiple meals. I question a vets motives advising 2 or 3 meals for the average adult dog. After all, having an optimally healthy pet means fewer vet visits. Dogs have gotten fatter and have more diabetes and cancers than ever. The increase in number of meals per day just might coincide with increasing health problems.


Saturday 10th of December 2022

The study proves what we already know, not eating consecutive hours then having one meal a day is very beneficial to people and animals such as mice and dogs which have been studied. The "cons" in this article don't make sense.


Friday 21st of October 2022

"The scientific jury is still out on whether or not feeding once a day is optimal. Despite the fact that there are some studies, there are no large-scale and peer-reviewed ones published in journals yet." That statement seems false as the study included 10,000 dogs, and the link to the paper you provided is peer reviewed, posted Nov 2021.


Saturday 10th of December 2022

@Heather, Ya, good point. That is not a small scale study. Feeding adult dogs of normal health once daily has been the norm for millennia. I think the concept of twice and 3 times is relatively new. It seems more for people's emotions than a dogs health. Just the tooth decay advanced by multiple daily feedings is enough to argue against it. I figured study was peer reviewed being that Newsweek, New Scientist, and many more wrote about it.


Friday 21st of October 2022

Hi Heather, thanks for your comment. Yes, the study I've linked is a great start in regards to feeding once per day. You could consider 10,000 dogs large scale, but it's still unsure how it'll affect the dogs in years to come considering the study is from 2019 and was posted 2021.

Many vets will advise against feeding once per day, especially when it comes to puppies, seniors, etc. More research could be done on the topic but it's an interesting angle.

Mikey Mike

Wednesday 15th of June 2022

Uhhhhhgg! When did people get so crazed about their four legged pals? Starting from childhood, I have owned dogs all my life; now I am ten years past a half century old. I have had various breeds of dogs, German shorthaired pointer, cockers (both English and American), Dobe, Poodle, and silky. I have always feed my dogs once a day with the best quality premium food I could afford. My dogs have led healthy lives. No illnesses. Cruel would be not feeding your dog at all. How many portions you break up your dog’s daily meals should be of no concern to anyone who isn’t footing your doggy bills.


Saturday 10th of December 2022

@Mikey Mike, Totally agree. Once a day is ideal for most healthy adult dogs. Wolves (whose ancestors have existed a million years) have had to fast for long periods between feasting on prey. Intermittent fasting (such as one meal a day) is proven excellent for health. My parents and grandparents always fed dogs once daily. Often it was scraps from dinner added to oatmeal. That was common in 1940's Chicago and these were strictly outside dogs. I've always used the best quality food I could buy but often make home made meals (various meats, cooked sweet potato and greens plus a variety of healthy leftovers like oats, rice, broth, fish, other veggies and fruits). Both my pugs lived 14 and 15 years in succession.


Friday 17th of June 2022

Hi Mike, I understand what you mean and have also stated that feeding a dog once a day can be fine for some dogs.

However, this article is not to scold dog owners, it's there to inform those of us who just want to know what kind of feeding schedule is healthy and appropriate.

Puppies generally don't do well when fed just once a day. Seniors or those with illnesses might also benefit from 2-3 feedings.

It's important to notice signs that this schedule is not good for your dog. My Rottweiler isn't performing well with a once-a-day feeding, for example.

Cheers, Danielle