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The new study, published in GeroScience last week, saw a team of scientists examine data collected by The Dog Aging Project since 2019, covering dogs of all ages, sizes and breeds.
The information from more than 10,000 dogs was analysed to look for associations between diet and health conditions such as skin, orthopedic, kidney, urinary, liver, cardiac, and neurological disorders.
The results proved to be intriguing, with the study suggesting that dogs fed just once a day have fewer physical health issues and better cognitive scores, compared to dogs fed more frequently.
The researchers explained in the study’s abstract: “Controlling for sex, age, breed, and other potential confounders, we found that 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.
“Therefore, we find that once-daily feeding is associated with better health in multiple domains.”
They added that future research with ‘longitudinal data’ could provide ‘stronger evidence for a possible causal effect of feeding frequency on health in companion dogs’.
Senior author Kathleen Karr, a professor of biostatistics in the University of Washington School of Public Health, said the results came as a bit of a ‘surprise’, saying her team hadn’t expect to see feeding frequency make such an impact.
She said: “We weren’t confident at all that we would see any differences in dogs’ health or cognition based on feeding frequency.
“I think we would have been excited to see an association between feeding frequency and health in just one domain. I was surprised to see associations in so many domains.”
Zihan Zheng, a student in the Master of Biostatistics Capstone program and study co-author, added: “It was a wonderful experience working with Professor Kerr and the other team members. I was impressed and inspired by their passion and conscientiousness, and it was very exciting to see the interesting results!”
While the results were interesting, Kerr said the evidence was not strong enough to impact the care and feeding of dogs, saying people should not change the way they feed their pets based on the study as further work was required.
She said: “The study is a small step toward understanding whether effects seen in laboratory animals generalize to dogs who live in highly varied, non-controlled environments.
“An important next step for the Dog Aging Project will be to re-visit our study questions in the future, after the study has followed dogs over time.”