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.
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.
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:
- 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.
Let’s examine the pros and cons.
|Improved gut health||Vomiting|
|Stronger immune system||Increased bloating risk|
|Resembles feeding pattern of wolves||Dogs are domesticated|
|Increased interest in eating||Unable to finish meals|
|More convenient for dog owners||Confusion 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):
- You feed your dog 8 pm on Monday, then 8 am on a Tuesday morning, and again 8 am on Wednesday morning
- You feed your dog 8 pm Mon, then 8 pm Tue, and 8 am Wed
- 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.