Fasting dogs: Benefits, how often and when not to

Fasting Dogs: Benefits, How Often & When Not to

When I first sat down with my raw-fed pup Wally and explained the concept of fasting dogs to him, I swear he was about to open his mouth and start weighing in…

Sure mom, I’m OK with naturally fasting when I’m sick, but beyond that?! I don’t think so, and I’ll really make my point with hunger pukes too if you dare try it!

On that note, yes, dogs naturally fast themselves when they’re sick to reset their stomach, and my food-crazy pup Wally is no exception.

I always know he’s not feeling well when he’s politely declining his bowl of raw dog food.

So far, that’s only happened 3 times since I adopted him in early 2019, but when it does, I know something’s up.

But beyond that, should dogs have a fasting day when they’re healthy?

The short answer is yes, because it’s beneficial on several different levels. However, as with all things in life there are exceptions to the rule.

For example, when you’re attempting to fast healthy adult dogs like Wally who just won’t accept it and protest with hunger pukes.

Our wholistic vet gave us a great tip for how I can pseudo fast Wally to avoid his yellow bile pukes, and today I’m sharing it with you all.

Besides that, I’ll cover the following in this blog post:

  • What are the benefits of fasting dogs?
  • How long can you fast a dog for?
  • Does fasting for dogs mean no water?
  • Other times when you shouldn’t fast your dog
  • Difference between traditional fasting vs intermittent fasting

Fasting Dogs: Benefits, How Often & When Not to

Fasting Dogs: Benefits, How Often & When Not to

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What Are The Benefits of Fasting Dogs?

So, how exactly is fasting beneficial for dogs?

Well, fasting is a natural concept for dogs just as it is for wolves (and many other animals, including us humans by the way).

Remember that dogs and wolves share 99.98% of the same DNA.

Besides fasting themselves when they’re not feeling well, wolves also only get to eat when they catch their prey, and that doesn’t happen every day!

Now here’s why fasting is so good for dogs – it:

  • Leads to a stronger immune system thanks to anti-inflammatory benefits
  • Acts as a healthy detox as it flushes out toxins (aka cellular cleansing)
  • Improves gut health which is particularly important for dogs with inflammatory bowel disease
  • Resets your dog’s stomach after nausea paired with diarrhea & vomiting
  • Reduces cancer risk by increasing natural killer cell activity

Bonus: Fasting dogs also helps with weight loss. That’s because the dog’s body burns excess sugar and fat which it uses for energy.

How Long Can You Fast A Dog For?

While healthy adult dogs can go without food for about 5 days, you should only be fasting dogs once a week for a fraction of that time, roughly 16-24 hours.

In other words, yes, it’s OK to skip a meal or two for a dog!

Traditional Fasting vs Intermittent Fasting for Dogs

If you’re fasting dogs for 24 hours, that’s considered traditional fasting.

Intermittent fasting means to fast your dog for 16 hours and then feeding them a meal.

With this approach, you’re feeding your dog one larger meal per day.

If you want, you can also feed them 2 smaller meals within 6-8 hours and then fast them for 16 hours after that.

There’s no need to reintroduce your healthy dog to food slowly after you fasted them for 16-24 hours.

However, if your dog is fasting themselves to recalibrate their digestive system, it’s a good idea to reintroduce food slowly.

Does Fasting for Dogs Mean No Water?

No, you should always provide your dog with plenty of fresh water when you’re fasting them!

Alternatively, you can also offer them bone broth as a nourishing liquid snack that supports your dog’s joint health.

You can either make your own bone broth or use the store-bought kind.

Here’s my recipe for DIY bone broth if you’re interested.

Pouring Bone Broth Into Mason Jars For Storage
My homemade bone broth

Another option is to offer your fasting dog plain kefir or raw goats milk.

Both are great probiotics rich in antioxidants, electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, healthy fatty acids and enzymes.

You can find plain kefir at most grocery stores, and lots of raw dog food retailers carry raw goats milk.

For example:

Eight different raw protein sources for raw dog meals and raw goat milk

When Not to Fast Your Dog

As with so many other things in life, there’s an exception to the rule as to when not to fast your dog.

For starters, you shouldn’t fast puppies because they’re still growing and need their daily nutrients.

Also, don’t fast diabetic dogs as it messes up their blood-glucose balance and can cause low blood sugar.

Additionally, you don’t want to fast pregnant & lactating dogs, nor dog athletes on working days.

All three need considerable amounts of energy, so don’t deprive them of it.

Last but not least, don’t force healthy adult dogs to fast if they react with hunger pukes.

For those guys, try the approach I’ve successfully implemented with Wally for the last 3 months after our wholistic vet suggested it!

How I Pseudo Fast My Dog Wally

The secret sauce that works for Wally instead of full fasting days is to only feed him plant matter and no raw cuts of meat.

Since plant matter is rich in fiber, it also helps clean the digestive tract.

At first, I wasn’t sure if he’d go for it but his vet said to just give it a shot and see how he likes it.

And what do you know, Wally has had no objections in the 3+ months we’ve been implementing this!

Wally gets puréed plant matter on his pseudo fasting day
Wally with his puréed plant matter on “fasting” day

In the beginning, I would pencil his plant matter days onto our wall calendar in the kitchen so I wouldn’t forget.

Now I know that Tuesdays are Wally’s pseudo fasting days.

The Thing About Dogs & Plant Cell Walls

If you haven’t read any of my raw dog food e-books or blog entries about Wally’s raw diet, allow me to explain that dogs don’t have the enzyme to break down plant cell walls.

It makes sense when you think about it – in the wild, they mostly consume plant matter that’s been broken down in their prey’s stomach!

Pretty sure I don’t have to paint you a picture of what that looks like, right?

Conjuring that image up, now you know why it’s important that we break down plant cell walls for our dogs, and we do that by puréeing veggies, fruit, nuts & seeds.

So if you want to make your pup’s very own smorgasbord of plant matter, just throw everything you want to prepare into a food blender or mixer.

Add some filtered water and purée everything.

Puréeing plant matter for raw dog food
Making a fresh batch of plant matter for Wally’s pseudo fasting days

Fasting Dogs: Bottom Line

So, is fasting good for dogs?

Yep, if you’re fasting dogs on a weekly basis, it can strengthen their gut, contribute to their overall health and longevity.

There’s another positive side effect of regular fasting days for dogs who don’t mind it terribly!

You won’t have a hard time withholding food on days when you made a vet appointment that includes drawing blood as dogs typically aren’t allowed to eat prior to it.

Additionally, fasting is good for dogs with diarrhea and also when they’re vomiting. Dogs who feel off will typically fast themselves.

While fasting dogs regularly is beneficial as it boosts their immune system, remember that you shouldn’t fast puppies, pregnant and lactating dogs, doggie athletes on working days as well as dogs with certain health conditions.

If your dog’s not a fan of fasting days and reacts with hunger pukes, try the plant matter-only approach my wholistic vet suggested for Wally.

It’s a lighter meal than raw cuts of meat that’s rich in fiber which contributes to cleaning the digestive system.

Do you fast your (raw-fed) dogs?

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Barbara launched her blog K9sOverCoffee in 2014 and has been feeding her dogs raw dog food since 2015. As a former professional dog walker, she’s passionate about balancing species-appropriate exercise with healthy dog nutrition. Barbara is raw dog food nutrition certified from “Dogs Naturally Magazine” and the author of several e-books about minimally processed, balanced raw dog food.






2 responses to “Fasting Dogs: Benefits, How Often & When Not to”

  1. Gaill Fraser Avatar
    Gaill Fraser

    I’m concerned about my female mixed breed, she has husky in her and her Dad used to fast himself every now and then, no problem. But Abbi is off her food, walks up to it,sniffs and walks away. I’ve had her at the vet and they have done numerous blood tests, also a scan of her uterus ( she is un spayed) and they find NOTHING wrong. I was feeding her chicken and rice, her poops had some yellow in them but the vet said that can just be change of diet. Then she went off the chicken and rice, and scoffed a bowl of pellets one morning. It’s like she’s become super fussy, she never was, and now since yesterday is refusing everything, including her favourite treats. She’s been dewormed, was on tablets for nausea for a couple of days, just to see if that was the problem ( never been any vomiting) or any diarrhoea, normal stools, just wer yellow but that has changed to normal again. I also gave her dog probiotics for a few days. She refused her dinner last night, and won’t eat at all this morning. I’m at a loss. I’m sitting in the car park of a shopping centre, wondering if I should buy her more chicken, or maybe some liver, or just allow her to fast….if I do, then how long? And what more can the vet do really?

    1. Barbara Rivers Avatar

      Hi Gaill, the first thought that popped into my head when I read your note was maybe her teeth are bothering her? But since you saw the vet with Abbi, I would assume that they checked out her teeth, right? My dog Buzz once broke a molar on a hard beef bone and one of his first reactions was to refuse any type of food (this was before I switched to raw during our kibble days when I wasn’t knowledgeable in what types of bone to offer).

      I have several suggestions for picky eaters who won’t eat their raw food in the blog post I’m linking to below – take a look there please and see if you can try a few of those:


      Other than that, maybe try to find a holistic vet to get a different opinion! Hope you can figure out what the problem is!

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