Fasting came up recently on a dog health forum I sometimes contribute to, and once again I got the emotionally-motivated resistance that normally comes my way from dog owners who equate regular routine feedings with responsible dog ownership. I posted a reply that I thought I would cross-post here. Unfortunately, not much is being written about maintenance or therapeutic fasting for dogs, so I don’t like to miss any opportunities to talk about it, especially among people who have already shown themselves to be open to unconventional information (like visitors to this site!).
Fasting offers dog owners so much efficacy, autonomy, ease of mind and cost savings and there is so much evidence that it’s the natural and normal way that dogs deal with sickness and injury in the wild, that it’s difficult to craft an argument against it that isn’t based on anything besides pure fear or other similar emotion. I always encourage people to read and learn a bit about it, and maybe even try it themselves, before passing judgement. Personally, I try to keep an open mind about things even before I’ve read or experienced enough to decide that’s the way I want to proceed. I am a member of a vegan feeders group, for example, even though I don’t feed my animals vegan or recommend vegan feeding. I’m still open to learning about it, plus I want to be educated in order to best serve my clients who choose it.
I understand the emotional obstacles to the idea of not feeding your dog. At first it can be very difficult to not think of yourself as mean or cruel when you withhold food, especially when you see your dog exhibiting behaviors that normally get him rewarded. There are ways around that, and your dog will be the benefactor. For example, you can recognize when you’re having those thoughts (“my little Foofoo will hate me”, etc.), and immediately think other thoughts (any of the dozens of great arguments for fasting dogs). Thoughts are to brains like bicep curls are to arms. They’re just what they do, and they can be changed. Before you know it, you won’t be having the old thoughts, and you won’t be suffering any of that unnecessary angst.
Another thing you can do is have someone else fast your dog. Right now an Aussie in my care is on Day 6 of a 7-day fast for ‘treatment’ (we’re not really treating anything, just getting out of the way of the body) of an inflamed eye growth. I realize people like myself who are open to the idea and willing to take on the responsibility of caring for a symptomatic dog are few and far between, but I’m doing my best to change that. I offer board and transition services to switch dogs to natural feeding (which includes complete feeding instructions for the owners when they return) while their owners are vacationing, and also boarding and fasting for dogs who are trying to recover from a health issue or just for periodic maintenance. Just one week of fasting per year can greatly extend the life of a dog and cut back on vet bills, no matter what you feed. And it’s no more expensive than regular boarding. Of course this is limited to people/dogs who live within driving distance of Seattle, Washington. Raw food enthusiasts, whether for humans or animals, are usually open to fasting so if you know others who feed or eat raw, you can do dog-swaps, where you fast each other’s dogs for a week out of the year. It’s much easier to ignore a dog’s “isn’t this cute, doesn’t it just make you want to go to the kitchen?” behaviors if the dog belongs to someone else.
Of course if you do try fasting, either for yourself or your dog, you’ll see what miracles can be accomplished. Then you’ll have plenty of positive thoughts you can think to effectively counter the irrational ones that produce guilt or fear.
Unfortunately, we are left to make these discoveries for ourselves. The “experts” are so busy reacting emotionally to the idea of fasting they won’t take a minute to think logically about it or examine the evidence. That’s why it’s up to us “non-experts” (lay persons) to extol its virtues and educate others. For those who want to learn more, I wrote an article for “Dogs, Naturally” magazine a few months ago about therapeutic fasting and the July issue will run my article about treating ear inflammation with fasting, which includes specific instructions.