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

Many dog owners are wondering whether or not feeding their dog once a day is beneficial or even cruel.

I was one of them and kinda started the dog equivalent of “intermittent fasting” with my 100-pound Rottweiler.

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

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.

My Rottweiler was vomiting very rarely when the time between feedings was too long (then again, 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.

However, some dog owners claim to have seen huge improvements after fasting their dogs.

It’s up to you and perhaps your veterinarian 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 small dog, 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. Additionally, it’s essential to spot any issues with that feeding schedule early on since many dogs don’t do well with once-a-day feeding.

Age is a huge component 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 good for their health.

First of all, your pup probably can’t manage to eat the entire meal in one sitting.

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

If your dog is a senior, he may also have trouble with one meal per day since he’ll lack energy for a major part 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 that but generally speaking, if you’re unsure go with feeding your dog 2-3x per day and you should be good.

You should probably not feed your dog once a day if one of the following is applicable:

  • The dog is a senior or unhealthy
  • You have a puppy (needs feeding 3-4x per day)
  • Feeding once a day already occured multiple days in a row
  • Your dog has issues with a meal once a day (vomiting, lethargic, gut issues)

However, for those of you who just want to try out feeding once a day, or maybe you’ve done it in the past on busy days or whatnot and wondered whether or not it’s actually a good idea, 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 improved as well as their appetite but there can be considerable downsides too.

Other dogs just gurgle up that white foamy vomit (the vomit color is actually essential to check the reason for the vomiting).

Puppy sits next to a small puddle of white dog vomit.

Firstly, the pros of feeding your dog once a day:

  • Improved gut health
  • Stronger immune system
  • More interest in eating the rest of the week
  • Less risk for bloating, especially on busy days
  • Resembles feeding pattern of wolves
  • More convenient for dog owner

As mentioned above, you should note that the gut health and immune system boost are not scientifically proven beyond doubt.

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.

Fasting doesn’t necessarily mean your dog needs fewer calories but even if the weekly nutritional supply is the same, intermittent fasting can have positive effects.

It’s working for many humans who are trying to lose weight and can be a great tool for overweight dogs too.

You shouldn’t go overboard and feed more in one session than you would otherwise over the whole day.

Some dog owners go as far as to fast their dogs twice a day.

Personally, skipping two days is definitely not for me and even if I’d fast my Rottweiler, I would still provide her with something to eat other than raw meat (still the benefit of having a reset for her gut).

All that is well and good but there are possible downsides to consider too.

The cons of feeding your dog once a day are the following:

  • Lack of nutritional balance for prolonged time
  • Vomiting can lead to other health issues
  • Dog might not be able to eat the whole meal (or will wolf it down too quickly)
  • Can create confusion around the feeding schedule

Some of these issues such as nutritional balance and not eating the whole meal can be easily solved.

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 is a bit harder to control and 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: It rarely happens but when I’m on a trip with my dog, it can happen that there’s not enough time for two meals.

A large brown dog inside a tent while camping. Trips can be a reason for only feeding your dog once a day.

By that, I don’t mean the actual eating but also the time for her to eat in a calm environment and have time to settle afterward.

The worst thing that can happen is bloat when you’re exercising your dog right after eating and if you have to choose, I’d go without a meal or just provide a really light one.

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:

  1. You feed your dog 8pm on Monday, then 8am on a Tuesday morning, and again 8am on Wednesday morning
  2. You feed your dog 8pm Mon, then 8pm Tue, and 8am Wed
  3. You feed your dog 8pm Mon, then 2pm Tue, and 8am Wed
  4. If you feed once a day, stick to 2pm 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 can 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 most 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.

However, the downside of providing a large meal in the middle of the day is the risk of bloat so beware of that.

Also, don’t let those puppy eyes fool you into giving a third meal even 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 into 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 and 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.

About Danielle

I am the founder of PawLeaks where I share weekly tips on dog training and behavior. Sharing a passion for dogs and helping owners to solve problems through understanding canine behavior and modification is my number one goal.

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.


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