dog with food bowlFeeding your dog once a day is common for many dog owners. It’s convenient, for one thing. And when people think about how wolves feed in the wild: feast or famine, it’s easy to see how people might think that feeding once a day is perfectly acceptable. But dogs are not wolves.  Our dogs should actually have the chance to eat at least twice a day – if not more. Although some people think that a once a day meal is good enough, dogs can’t really tell us if it is.

A normal dog’s stomach will empty in six to eight hours (1).  That means if you are feeding your dog in the morning, he or she is going to be pretty hungry at the end of the day! Health concerns can be a reason to feed more frequent meals, too.  Feeding smaller and more frequent meals can reduce the incidence of bloat in large breed dogs or hypoglycemia in smaller dogs (learn more in the article How to Feed Your Dog by the Animal Medical Centre of Southern California on this). But how does this effect reactive dogs?

Why feeding your dog more than once a day is relevant to dog aggression

In a Tuesday Pearl shared back on Sep 3, 2013 on Facebook by Reisner Veterinary Behavior & Consulting Services, Dr. Reisner, well-known veterinary behaviorist, describes how an empty stomach at the end of the day can lead to dogs feeling more anxious and irritable.  This is not going to help any dog predisposed to behaving aggressively to stay calm.  We know that dogs that don’t feel well, or who are more anxious and irritable are more likely to behave aggressively than dogs that are satiated and feel fine.

Even if your dog doesn’t seem to want any food at the end of the day, offer the choice, she writes.

How feeding your dog once a day can impact other behavior problems, too

Even dogs that are not predisposed to behaving aggressively still might show other behavior problems as a result of their hungry state.  Anxiety is thought to be a potential factor of many other problems such excessive chewing, and destruction.  Look at hot spots for example; hot spots are open sores on a dog’s body that can be caused by things like allergies.  But hot spots can also be a result of an obsessive compulsive disorder, or even boredom.  These problems are going to be made worse for a dog who is irritated or anxious because he or she is hungry.

You can improve things even further by feeding some of your dog’s daily allotment of food in a food puzzle toy.  It has been shown that environmental enrichment can be helpful for reducing aggression, so why not invest in a puzzle toy that can deliver some food throughout the day, and give them something to do at the same time? Bottom line, if you are only feeding your dog once a day, it will help to make a change to feeding two or more meals a day. It’s not hard and your know your dog will feel better for it! Tell us in the comment section if you are considering making a switch or what routines you may already have.

References

Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 5th Edition, Chapter 54 – Gastric Motility Emptying Disorders.