Is feeding one meal a day going to reduce the risk of age-related illness in dogs? Looking into the November 2021 study, how many times should you feed a dog, adult and puppy, number of meals, quality of meals, stress and diet in dogs, feeding dogs depending on size and breed (C) Natalia Ashton / Perfect cocker spaniel blog / English cocker spaniels, puppy tips and advice, grooming, training, behaviour, diet / Qualified canine nutritionist and small animal pet nutrition coach UK

How often should I feed my dog?

Feeding a dog, especially, a cocker spaniel, should be easy and straight forward. You choose the ideal food like 12345, set times and see your gorgeous pup enjoy his meals. You think you’ve done everything right, and then comes a study suggesting that your dog should only eat once (which sounds a bit like a promo for another Bond film, really). Even though the study itself specifies that more research is needed, the media picks it up and spreads all over the internet telling people that they are literally crippling their beloved pooches.

What happens next?

Dog parents all over the world suddenly feel scared, confused and upset because who wouldn’t?

Luckily, we can talk about it here to clarify a few things and make life a little bit brighter for everyone, including pups who are probably holding onto their bowls right now panicking about losing the other precious meal they’ve loved so much.

So what did the study say?

The Dog Aging Project study published in November 2021 suggested that dogs fed once a day would be less likely to get diagnosed with age-related health issues. The study was based on three facts: dogs are from wolves and wolves don’t eat like dogs, intermittent fasting is good, and dog owners’ annual surveys gave positive response.

Now, let’s remind ourselves once again that thanks to evolution, changes in lifestyle and artificial breeding, dogs and wolves are not exactly the same. An average grey wolf lives between 6 and 8 years. Some may reach 17, but chances are slim because of the natural selection.

Intermittent fasting in laboratory animals may did them favours, but those animals are not living in the same environment or enjoy little pleasures of life as our pet dogs. It’s also worth to mention that most of the reference fasting studies were done on humans or rats. And true, we can do well with intermittent fasting done right. But even humans, when they do intermittent fasting, only follow 12-16 hour fasts, not 24! And, as humans, we do it at our own will and understanding of what is going on.

I don’t take owner’s surveys seriously at the best of times. Everything people think and feel about their dogs is biased and based on opinions, understanding, education and experience of each particular person. Even if we talk to 24000 of them, as the study did, it won’t rock my boat as a scientific fact.

I was also uneasy about two other factors. The study only used neutered dogs. And for me it does not make sense because their body functions have already been altered and thus any outcomes would only apply to other neutered dogs. And we know that neutering isn’t all fun and games. It does increase the risks of disease including several cancers. The other factor is that 56% of the dogs used in the study were mix breeds – in veterinary terms, they were mutts. Whilst I have no issues with loving all dogs, I would struggle to apply any study on mixed breeds dogs to changes any pure bred dogs would need to go through in order to live longer? Because… genetics… And among the breeds, many of them were large breeds that would feel comfortable with one meal a day, theoretically. Because… labradors and retrievers do love food.

How many times do we need to feed our dogs each day?

This will depend on several factors.

First of all, your dog’s age. Puppies need to be fed more frequently, 3-4 times a day, because it will allow their little bodies digest food comfortably (as their stomach is still growing), receive nutrients and calories (that are higher than required for an adult dog) how and when needed and, and as a result, help them grow at a steady rate. This alone will reduce the risk of obesity, bone disease and even some cancers in the future.

Most healthy adult dogs aged 12 months or over can eat twice a day with 8-12 hours in between. This will allow their stomach to digest the meal, keep the pup fill full and happy, then naturally empty and signal the brain the hunger “Must eat or look sad!” cue.

Breed is important.

Not only dogs would require different quantities of food per day, they will utilise what is given depending on their size! When a study looked into 69 clinical parameters in dogs of various breeds, 16 (including gut bacteria, specific proteins and antioxidants) were different between the large and small canines. Overloading the system by giving dogs one meal a day means that some of these dogs are even less likely to absorb the nutrients that could be vital for their long-term health.

Cockers are usually fed twice a day, but they are foodies and most of the dogs I know, including my own, would feel depressed, stressed or anxious if they suddenly lost a meal and had to go on empty for 24 (!!!) hours.

And what can happen to a stressed dog?

First of all, he will be so anxious about the next meal, he is likely to inhale it. This can lead to bloating and be life-threatening.

In fact, when a study looked into causes of bloat (or gastric dilatation-volvulus syndrome), the one-meal-per-day, fearfulness and stress were three of the highest risks.

If your dog has psychological issues such as separation anxiety, reducing the number of meals can cause release of stress hormone and make them feel worse as they lose their “comfort food”. Currently, about 20% of dogs are known to suffer from SA, 20-25% are fearful towards strangers (read – possibly have a build-up of stress hormones in their little bodies on a permanent basis) and as many as 50% may have noise sensitivity (again, read – stressed out regularly). Imagine if all these pups lost one thing that makes them feel good?

Even if, hypothetically, a one-meal-a-day diet could reduce the risks of some age-related diseases (which to me could be fixed and prevented with many other and much less dramatic diet and life-style changes and alternations such as, for example, not feeding dogs high protein or grain-free diets or avoiding so called “superfoods” known to cause kidney stones, or measuring dog food to prevent obesity – one of the major factors in age-related health conditions and cancers in dogs that the study did not even look into), it will cause great stress. Stress, in its turn, will lead to an absolute havoc within the body and affect every single system, from changes in hormones and digestive enzymes, blood sugar control and vitamin and mineral balance, to the bones and muscles, the nerves and brain, blood pressure and heart. Which does not immediately screams “healthy dog” to me.

What should you do about your dog’s meals?

If you have a puppy, stick with 3-4 meals a day until he is 6 months. Then, in case of cockers, try with two meals but if your puppy struggles, go for three. It is more important to watch the quantity of food per day rather than number of meals required to eat this food.

Do not feed your dog, especially a puppy, “free style” better known as ad libitum, by leaving a bowl of food for the entire day and allowing the cocker to help himself whenever he feels like it.

Set meal times are important for digestion, elimination and overall satiety. In other words, a fed cocker is a happy cocker who knows when to eat, sleep, poop, play and repeat.

If your dog has been diagnosed with any health conditions or has to take medication, you will always need to consult your vet about feeding times.

Remember that any health-related advice you’d even need should always come from your vet. This alone will keep your dog healthier for longer.



Photo credit: image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Getting Christmas gifts for your pup? Read this first.

Gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts!

Wherever I look, I see pup parents frantically buying gifts for their dogs.

But let me tell you one, possibly unpopular, thing: the ONLY gift your pup needs and REALLY enjoys is… YOU!

Your company, your attention, your smiles and touches. They mean so much for to any dog!

Why?

Because dogs are, whether you like it or not, animals. Not humans. They don’t put the same value on gifts as you do.

Pause and think before you fall into the Christmas shopping madness…

If your pup needs a new collar because the old one is no longer safe – go for it! If the content of his toy box looks a bit tired – get a great toy, the best you can afford. If a new bed is what is important, click “buy”.

And if you want him to have something yummy – bake treats at home! Safer, budget-friendly and gives you a chance to truly bond with your spaniel. Trust me, I wrote the cookbooks!

So stop stressing out about having to buy things or showing the world how “lucky” your pup is because he’s got a bunch of stuff for Christmas.

Trust me, “the world” doesn’t give a damn and can even feel upset, or, in some cases, envious, because not everyone can be like you.

And the thing is… Love for a dog isn’t equal to the amount of money spent on him. And your pup will never judge you if all he gets for Christmas is a kiss.

Remember to live your life! Not consume it or measure its worth with things (that most dogs don’t even care about)

Just you and your pup. Isn’t it the best gift?!


As a bonus, here is a list of ten fun ideas to make your pup the happiest, and they won’t cost you a thing!


Photo credit: image by Yevhen Buzuk from Pixabay

How dogs smell. Curious facts about dog's nose, how they detect scent, disease, what can affect dog ability to smell. (C) Perfect cocker spaniel dog blog by Natalia Ashton / Canine nutritionist, pet nutrition coach, all about English cocker spaniels, grooming, training, diet, puppy tips. Photo of Cooper, English cocker spaniel with snow on his nose.

Dog’s nose | Curious facts beyond the boop

It’s not just for cute boops… A dog’s nose is probably one of the most fascinating things about them. So much so that I am dedicating another post to the dog’s nose and incredible sense of smell. 

I love watching my boys noses, how they follow an invisible story, the tiny twitches, the hunger of the unknown and exciting information they greedily breathe in. They are both into this ritual, yet I often wonder how Coop and Fred perceive this world based on their experiences of scents.

Coop is certainly a good sniffer, but the boy is mostly interested in pee mail. And flowers. Fred, on the other hand, has the nose of canine dreams! He doesn’t care about the mail, but he always informs me if somebody we know is around the corner, a dog just walked through the village, or there’s a cat, bunny or pheasant nearby (by “nearby” I mean distance on Fred’s sniffing terms – it covers miles…) And both are definitely aware of food smells and do react to any emotional and hormone-related changes in us.

We know that dogs rely on their sense of smell and hearing more than vision. Does it mean that even my chaps, whilst being canines, would actually see the world around us as two completely different environments? The geek in me keeps playing with this idea a lot. 

But is it exactly that makes a dog’s nose so unique?

It has about 250 million receptors responsible for detecting scents. Humans only have 5 million. We are pretty basic.

Dogs can bond with their littermates and humans through scent and detest strangers and non-litter pups because of it. In a study a dog was presented with 5 different scents including his own, a familiar human, a strange human, a familiar dog and a strange dog. Only the scent of the familiar human triggered the response in the brain area responsible for positive emotions, rewards and “romantic interactions”. In other words, the pups knew who is responsible for the biscuits. 

Even more fascinating, dogs can differentiate between two identical twins if the twins were fed different diets or raised in different environments.

If a teaspoon of sugar was dissolved in two Olympic-sized swimming pools, dogs would be able to smell it. 

Dog’s ability to sniff is breed-dependent. In a 1965 experiment by Scott and Fuller, a mouse was left in an acre-sized field. Beagles located it within a minute. A fox terrier took 15. A Scotty literally stood by the mouse and still failed to see it. I suspect if a bloodhound (the clear champion of sniffing) was around he’d be by that mouse in seconds.

Cockers, on the other hand, proved themselves as fabulous drug detectors.

Dogs can track a person days after his or her disappearance as long as there’s about 1/1000 of human scent left on the ground. 

They can also confirm or deny if two odours are from the same source, identify separate ingredients in a bowl of soup, or detect substances used in explosions despite the presence of any debris. 

Dogs can smell cancer, covid, changes in blood sugar or body pre-seizure. 

A blind dog will always follow his nose. It is what can help him adjust to his new life and stay tuned in without panicking.

Dogs smell better in humid conditions, and struggle to smell effectively when they feel really hot.

Dogs who frequently eat coconut oil may have a reduced ability to detect scents

And canines diagnosed with hyperadrenocorticism, hypothyroidism, or diabetes can also struggle to use their nose as nature intended.


Next time you look at your pup’s snout, take a moment to appreciate its wonders that we will never experience or truly comprehend… And follow your dog’s nose…



Photo credit: Cooper photographed by me