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Questionnaires sent out by the University of Washington in Seattle quizzed over 20,000 dog owners on their feeding routines. The researchers asked participants: “How many times per day is your dog fed?”

Responses were then used to judge a relationship between dog cognitive ability and frequency of feeding.

The answers fell into one of two categories – “once” or “more than once”.

One in 12 of the dogs in the data were fed just once a day.

These dogs were considered to be inadvertently intermittently fasting, not dissimilar to the eating habits of wild wolves.

They scored 0.63 lower on a cognitive dysfunction test, compared with more frequently fed dogs – an indicator of better brain performance.

The researchers wrote: “This effect size of 0.63 points is roughly the same difference in mean score between 11-year-old and seven-year-old dogs.”

However, the finds are not yet fully published, nor peer-reviewed.

The researchers commented: “This is the largest study to date of feeding frequency conducted in companion dogs.”

They added: “Given the limitations of this cross-sectional, observational study, the results of this investigation should not be used to make decisions about the feeding or clinical care of companion dogs.

“However, if supported by future studies, it may be prudent to revisit the currently predominant recommendation that adult dogs be fed twice daily.”

“The rationale for twice-daily feeding in dogs is obscure, and our study suggests that more frequent feeding may, in fact, be suboptimal for several age-related health outcomes.”

The analysis suggested that the risk of liver issues in dogs could be reduced by 59 percent, and the likelihood of suffering from gastrointestinal disease by 35 percent with a one meal per day routine.

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It also decreased the chances of kidney or urinary issues by 28 percent, and dental issues by 16 percent.

Dr Alex German, a professor of small animal medicine at the University of Liverpool, voiced his scepticism with the study on the blog ‘ConscienHealth’, saying the study had value but was in its infancy.

He said: “The authors have done a good job and I look forward to seeing further data particularly when the cohort is more established and they have more objective measures (than owner reports) at their disposal.

“Not unexpectedly, there are many weaknesses which, in fairness, the authors do acknowledge in the discussion.”

In a twenty-post Twitter thread, he added: “The final published version might well differ greatly from the current version.”

He praised some parts of the study, saying: “Based on what I have read, the main strength of the study is that numbers are large and the statistical methods are sound.”

He concluded: “I am hopeful that the authors of this pre-print will continue to explore this topic and, in time, we might have more robust data on which to make future recommendations.”

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