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Intermittent Fasting

Hello friends! Thank you so much for being here! It was so nice to be able to sit down this past week and dive back into writing blog posts since we welcomed our new little human into the world. Things are going great with us, the dogs and baby Everleigh and the only downside I've found is my blog posts take weeks to write instead of hours or days, since someone else now demands my full attention round the clock! Lol

I have some big plans for WW this year and I'm so excited to share new things with you in 2021 😊🐶

On that note, let's dive back into the world of canine nutrition! Today my post is a little different - while I usually coach pet parents on how to optimally feed your woofer, this post we are going to talk about the opposite! I want you to NOT feed your dog! (a few times a month that is!)

Think I'm crazy? Think withholding food from your dog sounds cruel and unusual? That's ok! You may have to put up with a hungry dog once in a while but the benefits can be really worth it. Here's why -

First, let's talk about what fasting actually is:

Fasting is not the same as starvation. With therapeutic fasting, nutrient intake is enough to maintain vital tissues. In order to benefit from fasting, your dog must receive a sufficient amount of nutrient intake on non-fasting days. Rather than starving your dog, you are actually creating a nutritional plan of fasting and non-fasting days which leads to maintenance of their vital muscle and organ function.

You may have heard top human athletes or followed a diet plan that talked about intermittent fasting and all its benefits for humans, but guess what? The same goes for our woofers! There is strong evidence to show that proper, healthy intermittent fasting can improve the immune system, optimize digestion, help with faster injury recovery AND even increase life span. Studies have shown that in rodents intermittent or periodic fasting protects against diabetes, cancers, heart disease and neurodegeneration.

Fasting helps increase the healthy cells in your dog's body

Fasting has shown to activate autophagy, which is the process of clearing out dying and damaged cells while promoting the regeneration of healthy ones. This in turn promotes immunity. This process increases Macrophages (immunity cells), Neutrophils (the body's "first responder" white blood cells) and Monocytes (white blood cells that consume infectious invaders) which all help protect your dog from infection, illness and disease.

Fasting gives the digestive system a chance to rest, focus and work optimally

Due to the periodic absence of food, the entire body will have more energy to use on regeneration instead of using it on digestion and absorbing nutrients. Healthier cells will replace unhealthy cells and overall body regeneration will take place.

Fasting has a healthy impact on your dog's gut microbiota which consists of a group of microorganisms that live in the intestinal tract and plays key roles in maintaining health and preventing disease. The gut microbiota is not only involved in a number of the body's major processes including fermentation of indigestible dietary polysaccharides and synthesis of essential amino acids and vitamins, but also is a crucial factor in maintaining gut homeostasis (homeostasis is a healthy state that is maintained by the constant adjustment of biochemical and physiological pathways).

Fasting can play an important role in your dog's aging brain function

According to a study preformed, "Compared to ad libitum-fed controls, rats and mice maintained on an IF (intermittent fasting) diet exhibit less neuronal dysfunction and degeneration, and fewer clinical symptoms in models of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Huntington’s disease (HD). Animals on an IF diet also fare better than ad libitum-fed controls after acute injury including severe epileptic seizures, stroke, and traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries (Arumugam et al., 2010; Bruce-Keller et al., 1999; Plunet et al., 2008)."

Fasting promotes a general anti-inflammatory response for the whole body

Fasting can reduce the level of insulin in the body. Insulin is a pro-inflammatory hormone and reducing its levels can aid in maintaining a healthy weight or achieving weight loss.

Due to its anti-inflammatory benefits, fasting can even have positive effects in cancer prevention and treatment.

"In mice, alternate day fasting caused a major reduction in the incidence of lymphomas (Descamps et al., 2005) and fasting for 1 day per week delayed spontaneous tumorigenesis in p53-deficient mice (Berrigan et al., 2002)."

In dogs that are currently fighting cancers, studies in mice have shown that proper intermittent fasting makes an impact on slowing and inhibiting the growth rate of cancer cells while promoting regeneration in normal healthy cells and tissues which can help prevent the harsh side effects of a chemotherapy treatment.

Fasting can help your dog recover quicker from injury

Recent studies suggest that such fasting may also promote recovery after acute spinal cord injury. "Compared to controls, fasting rats with damaged spinal chords showed they recovered better, had smaller injury-site lesions and increased neuronal regeneration over rats fed more liberally."

Lastly, one of the biggest benefits of intermittent fasting for your dog is something we all strive for in our increased life span!

These results are incredible, and it's pretty crazy that doing something so small, such as reducing your dog's food a few days a month can make such a big impact on their health and lives. In one of them, rats that fasted every other day lived 83% longer than rats who weren’t fasted! 83%! When you see numbers like that, fasting your dog suddenly becomes a no-brainer.

So, how can I incorporate fasting into my woofer's routine?

There are different ways to fast your dog, but intermittent fasting means feeding your dog once or twice during a 6-8 hour period and then fasting them for the other 16-18 hours.

This is called the 16/8 method; 16 hours fast, then an 8-hour window for eating. Another method is feeding your dog breakfast, and then fasting for 24 hours till the next breakfast meal (or same time frame for starting fast after dinner). It is ideal to fast your adult dog once per week but a couple times a month works great as well.

You can fast your dog by:

- Following 16/8 method

- By feeding them once per day

- Allowing them to self fast (especially common in the northern breeds, some dogs will "self regulate" and skip an occasional meal or two. This is perfectly fine and normal as long as there are no other symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, etc) present.

Some dogs will suffer from something known as "the hunger pukes" and this is when your dog begins to regurgitate or vomit bile (yellow, foamy liquid) while on an empty stomach. You don't need to panic as this is a common and natural response. Bile is a substance produced in the liver that aids in digestion and often occurs when the stomach is empty and is not the same as the dog regurgitating food. If your dog suffers from these episodes, you can break up the fast with a small nutritious liquid meal such as some bone broth or goat's milk. Adding proper pre and probiotics will also help combat this issue and is something I recommend for ANY dog, no matter what they are doing with their diet routine. Our favorite brand we highly recommended is "Love bugs" by the Adored Beast line.

For most dogs, it can be a shock to go from eating every day to suddenly missing breakfast and you now have a dog that is constantly bothering you for snacks....

You can help this by easing your dog into the new routine slowly and help them transition by:

- Working your way up to a full fast (most dogs do a 8-12 hour fast between meals anyway, so start slowly increasing the time between meals). It also helps to keep routine and fast your dog on the same day each week/biweeky, etc.

- Provide small liquid meals if they are really hungry. This can help break up the long duration for some dogs during the fast and also combats the hunger pukes.

- Consider their current diet and look at adding ingredients that promote the feeling of being "full" longer. Adding fresh foods that are higher in fiber will help make your dog feel fuller longer and make longer duration fasts more tolerable for them.

- Stick to the new plan. If you read the listed studies at the end of this article you'll notice a common theme - the results only happen when you stick to the plan. All the benefits are lost when you only half-commit to fasting your dog and only do it once in a blue moon. Consistency is important and needed to get the maximum benefit out of intermittent fasting.

When you shouldn't fast your dog

Fasting is for healthy, adult dogs only. Puppies need a consistent supply of nutrients and should not be fasted. Dogs that are pregnant, nursing or suffer from diabetes should also not be fasted. If your dog shows sign of gastric upset such as vomiting up food particles or begins having diarrhea, discontinue and please consult a trusted professional.

Always ensure your dog has access to fresh water at all times - never withhold water, even during a fast!


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