By Dr Edward Bassingthwaighte, Holistic Veterinarian
Fasting can be incredibly supportive and helpful for your pet’s well-being. And it’s way easier to do than you might think. At least physically! The mental/emotional aspects can be a little bit tricky, even challenging. (I’ll talk about this later in this article.)
I’m going to inspire you to start a regular fasting practice for your pets with this article. I fast my two dogs and two cats one day a week, every week. I noticed a solid uptick in vitality for them when I did this.
What is fasting?
Here’s a dictionary definition of fasting: To be deprived of all or some kinds of food, especially for medical reasons, or to eat no food for a period of time.
It’s incredibly simple. You simply don’t feed your animals for a period of time. They will be hungry. Their immune system and physiology will flip into a totally different mode. This has amazing benefits for vitality, immune function, and overall well-being.
What are the benefits of fasting?
Stabilises blood sugar levels by reducing insulin resistance. This can reduce the risk of developing diabetes. Please be aware that if you have an animal who already has diabetes, you should NOT do full fasting, or indeed any kind of fasting without talking to your vet first.
Reduces inflammation throughout the body. Fasting decreases several inflammatory markers, and may be useful in treating inflammatory conditions.
Support a healthy heart by improving blood pressure and/or blood triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Heart health is very important, and anything you can do to keep the heart strong and well is incredibly valuable.
Protects brain health, increases nerve cell regeneration. This is important as our pets age, and can delay and reduce doggy dementia problems.
Aids weight loss! This one gets an exclamation mark, because so many pets are overweight, and this is very bad for health and vitality. My cat, Fred, was a real porker until I started regular fasting- now he’s slim, trim, and terrific.
Increases secretion of Growth Hormone. This hormone supports healthy metabolism, increases muscle strength, and supports healthy growth in younger animals.
Increases vitality - delays aging, extends longevity. In one study, rats that fasted every other day lived 83% longer than another cohort who were not fasted.
May aid in cancer prevention, and help chemotherapy to be more effective. Fasting may block or slow tumor development, and makes chemotherapy work better.
Causes healthy epigenetic shifts. Fasting literally changes the functions and expressions of hormones, cells, and genes. There are beneficial changes in several genes and molecules related to longevity and protection from disease.
Increases cellular repair. Fasting stimulates cellular repair processes, such as clearing waste products out of the cells and the body
Reduces oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a key cause of many aging and chronic disease processes.
As you can see, the benefits of fasting are SIGNIFICANT!
Here’s how to fast your pets
The simplest way to fast your pets is to cut out all food for a day. I feed my pets once daily, so they actually go without food for 48 hours. If you feed twice a day, a one day fast would last for 24 hours. Make sure your pets have plenty of water.
A modified fast might be to only feed once a day if you feed twice daily - though the benefits will be less with a shorter fast.
Your pets are going to be hungry. That’s the whole point of this - they have to be hungry for their body to switch the metabolism so all the good things happen. The problem here is going to be when they look at you with those big, sad, ‘I’m starving to death’ puppy dog eyes.
This is your emotional challenge. To say no! Do not give them food, no matter how much emotionally manipulative pressure they apply to you. Dogs are very, very good at getting humans to give them what they want. And if you want to fast your pets effectively, and gain all the health benefits from this practice, you’ll need to be more determined than your dogs!
You’ll need to be willing to endure your dog’s emotional discomfort and outrage at not getting their dinner when they expect it. You’ll need to endure your own emotional discomfort or distress because you don’t like your dogs being upset.
And guess what? It’s well worth doing this, as the benefits for your pets are really strong, especially if you make this an ongoing practice. However, I’m surprised at the number of my clients who instantly say - ‘Oh, there’s no way I could do that to my dogs!’.
One alternative, if you simply find it too emotionally difficult, is to give your pets a bone broth. Instead of a meal of solids, only give a cup or two of lightly warned bone broth as their only food on ‘fasting day’. This will give a good measure of the benefits of fasting, and take some of the emotional difficulty out of the question.
As I write to you all, it's a fasting day for my pets. Tonight, they’ll be giving me that ‘poor me, I’m starving to death’ look. And they won’t have any dinner, because I want them to live a long, happy, healthy, vital life, and I know that fasting is one way to support this!
I encourage you to give fasting a go. It really does make a huge difference for your pets!
About the Author - Dr Edward Bassingthwaighte.
Dr Edward Bassingthwaighte is a holistic veterinarian, and a world-leading expert in silent pain in pets. Dr Edward is passionate about fresh raw whole foods for dogs. He is the founder of the Whole Energy Body Balance method- a profoundly healing bodywork modality for pet parents and pet wellness professionals to relieve silent pain, anxiety and trauma in pets. Join Dr Edward's free masterclass on silent pain in pets here.
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