Can Your Pet's Diet Help Them Live Longer?

In a word, YES.  

And here's how.  In this blog post, we will discuss both the frequency and ingredients of a pet's diet to help them live their longest and best life.

There are three different ways we can use  diet to increase our pet's longevity:

  • how frequently they eat
  • how much they eat
  • what they eat 

... so let's dive into each of these longevity strategies for your pet.

How Frequently Should My Pet Eat to Live Their Longest?

Studies in several species confirm the fact that "time-restricted feeding" separated by periods of fasting can add up to 10% to lifespan.  This study showed there was no additional benefit gained with 22 hour fasts (ie, once daily meals) over 12 hour fasts (ie, two meals a day scheduled with forethought).  To be clear, our pets would vote unanimously to have more meals throughout the day, but if your goal is longevity then current science says no more than two meals a day at as close to 12 hour intervals as possible.

The Dog Aging Project has taken this hypothesis one step further.  Their data suggests that dogs fed only once daily have fewer health issues than dogs fed more frequently.  

How Much Should My Pet Eat to Live Their Longest? 

Once again, our pets are not going to like this answer.  In EVERY species studied to date, including both dogs and humans, CALORIE RESTRICTION IS THE BEST WAY OF EXTENDING LIFESPAN.  Full stop.  Rapamycin mimics caloric restriction in its metabolic effects, but no other drug or supplement comes close to the benefits of simple calorie restriction.  The classic study on this involved pairs of Labrador Retriever littermates, one of whom was on a calorie restricted diet through life and the other of whom ate an unlimited diet.  The dogs who were calorie-restricted lived an average 1.8 YEARS LONGER than their study partners.

In this study of 39 Labrador Retrievers, the authors found NO association between age of neutering and mortality, but their analysis clearly pointed out that thin dogs lived longest.

What Diet Should I Feed My Pet to Help Them Live Their Longest?

This is where opinions are going to start diverging.  Here are dietary factors that we can all agree upon:

  • Diets should be chosen to reduce allergies and inflammation.  If your pet is allergic to asparagus, don't feed them asparagus.  Actually, I've never seen that allergy but I have seen many dogs allergic to one meat or another, and one cat allergic to gophers.  In general, red meat and grains are the biggest offenders from an allergic perspective, while fish and veggies are generally better protein sources for allergic pets.  
  • Home cooked diets are superior to commercial diets... as long as they are nutritionally balanced.  You can get by without balancing diets for a couple of weeks, but if you are going to home cook for your pet longer term you should consult with a nutritional service like BalanceIt or their colleagues. 
  • The less processing, the better.  Kibbled and canned OTC diets are, sadly, very well processed to enhance flavor or preservation.   That gravy isn't a gravy, and that "sliced meat" is not just sliced meat.  Pet food manufacturers are no dummies, and they are trying to sell YOU... not to ensure best nutrition for your pet.
  • Never believe feeding instructions on pet food, while we're at it.  Let's face it -- if you and I were in the pet food business, would we put the REAL meal size recommendations on the bag... or would we sneak them upwards to sell more food?  I thought so.
  • Many raw diets carry the risk of bacterial contamination.  To be clear, every year both humans AND dogs die from food poisoning, and this risk is highest in raw diets.  To avoid this in raw diets, only buy your pet diets that have gone through High Pressure Pasteurization, or HPP.   One raw diet that has impressed me so far with their research and safety is Instinct. 
  • For pets facing cancer or diseases like diabetes, we should minimize dietary carbohydrate intake.  Kibbled diets, in particular, have a very high carb component because it is needed to keep the kibbles bound together.  For some pets, ketogenic diets may be a great option.
  • If you are feeding your pet a grain free diet, make sure you supplement them with Taurine to prevent fatal cardiomyopathy.  

Have questions?  Let me know, and email me at  Simple questions are easy, and we can set up a consult for the harder ones.