More than just a diet fad, intermittent fasting is a meal-timing lifestyle schedule in which you cycle between periods of voluntary fasting and non-fasting. It has been hailed by many as the magical answer to shedding kilos and has amassed millions of fans all over the world claiming to experience rapid sustainable weight loss and improved health and wellbeing.
But did you know that intermittent fasting is not only good for humans, it is also suitable for dogs to adopt this lifestyle? Both animal studies and human clinical trials have shown that intermittent fasting can have great positive health benefits for both you and your furry friend.
How does intermittent fasting work in humans?
While weight loss is certainly a welcome outcome of intermittent fasting for humans, it’s not the only benefit. The digestive system is complex and performs many important functions in the body, however, it needs time to get rid of toxins like parasites, viruses and bacteria.
If we are constantly eating, the body is working to remove toxins. Much like you can’t expect machinery to operate 24/7 without malfunctioning, the digestive system also needs to hit pause on the intake of food so that it can complete what it’s supposed to do properly. Without an interval to complete its task and reset, the body can start to make mistakes and develop autoimmune diseases in which it starts to attack the body’s healthy cells and tissues.
Autoimmune disorder can then trigger health issues which can present itself very similarly in dogs and humans. Common ailments include arthritis and allergies, liver disease and cancer. When you adopt intermittent fasting as part of routine, the body has the time to process and reset so that it has time to work on the toxins that we take into our bodies when we eat.
Studies have shown that fasting causes the body to switch from using glucose in the liver to using ketones which are stored in fats. When this switch is made and the body has an increase in ketones, the body starts to experience some benefits such as the removal or repair of damaged molecules, increased stress resistance and suppressed inflammation.
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting for dogs?
While dogs are different to humans, the same principle applies to the way a dog’s digestive system works. Like humans, dogs need time to eliminate toxins and other nasties from the body. If you introduce your dog to intermittent fasting, it will give your dog’s digestive system the break it needs to function at peak performance levels. The fasting period is used to increase the dog’s gut anti-bacterial function, immunity and cancer-fighting ability.
Other benefits of intermittent fasting for dogs include an improvement of arthritic conditions and a longer life span. Dog owners might be unsure how to introduce a change so here are some tips. Two of the easiest patterns to follow are, firstly to fast two days in a seven-day week, or else to only eat in a six-hour window in each day. If you want to start slow, studies have found that reducing your dog’s food by 70% for one day a week can be beneficial.
Fasting, not starving
There is a difference between fasting and starving. Starvation occurs when the body isn’t getting enough nutrients to function properly. The body then starts consuming its fat reserves, after which, it begins to use the proteins from its muscle tissues. This is not what happens in intermittent fasting, so I would advise that if you want to adopt this plan, you should consult your GP and your dog’s vet before you start, so that you get it right.
Robert Belobrajdic is the co-founder of premium dog food company Stay Loyal.