Best Dog Longevity Diet

Best Dog Longevity Diet

Note: This article on the best dog longevity diet is the second in a series of articles on life extension for dogs. We previously examined the role dental health plays in dog longevity, and future pieces will include a look at exercise for dogs, medical procedures like neutering, and supplements and medications that may extend your dog’s life, plus a full guide to dog life extension.

Dog diet and nutrition, just like human nutrition, is a contentious issue.

Everybody has their own opinion on what constitutes the best diet for dogs in terms of health and longevity and, despite a real lack of quality research, these opinions can become quite entrenched and dogmatic.

Most people who prefer one dog food over another usually have their favorite anecdote to support it. Maybe that new vegan kibble stopped their dog from barking so much, or that diet of raw lamb bones completely fixed Fido’s bowel issues.

Even members of the scientific and veterinarian communities may have their own biases and preferences.

So in wading into this sea of opinion, argument, and entrenched interests I wanted to try and understand, at a high-level, what canine diet and feeding patterns seem to have the most scientific evidence behind them.

dog longevity diet

I wanted to know:

  • How much should I feed my dog if I want him to live as long as possible?
  • What types of dog food are best for the health of my dog? Can dogs eat carbs? Or should I stick to grain-free dog foods?
  • What is raw feeding for dogs, and is there any evidence it is healthier than dried kibble?
  • Should I just feed my dog the same food my wife and I eat? Bobi, the supposedly world’s oldest dog at 30+ years old, allegedly eats the exact same meals as his human owners (with the seasoning removed). But is this true and, if so, is it a major factor in his longevity?

I will say right at the start, if you have a strong opinion about one type of dog food over the other being best for your pup’s health, this article probably won’t change your mind. The truth is, in my research I (mostly) didn’t find that there was enough evidence to support any one specific diet, brand, or ingredient mix being better than another in terms of helping your dog live longer.

However, there is some very strong research on how you feed your dog, and especially how much you feed your dog impacting their longevity.

I’ll kick off with that, and then get into the nitty-gritty around specific diets and foods that may improve your dog’s lifespan afterwards.

Note: Save the Dog Aging Project!
One of the best sources for research studies on dog longevity has been the Dog Aging Project, an NIH-funded study of over 45,000 dogs that’s already provided landmark insights into how to make dogs (and eventually people!) live longer. Unfortunately, as of publication in 2024, NIH is threatening to pull the funding for this crucial scientific endeavor. Please help save the Dog Aging Project by signing this petition: You can also donate directly to the project here:
Get notified when we publish new posts in the dog longevity series!

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The best dog longevity diet is less

If I had one single lesson I could share from my three-week research binge into the science around dog food, it would be that the best dog longevity diet is not a matter of dry dog food vs. raw food, or commercial brands vs. home prepared, but of amount, frequency, and timing of feeding.

While there are more studies on dog diet and feeding compared to other aspects of dog longevity like exercise and supplements, there’s still far less than the reams of studies on human nutrition. And even fewer of these directly evaluate dog longevity or mortality.

But the few studies that did have dog lifespan as an endpoint generally seem to agree that feeding your dog less, less often, and for a shorter period of time will make your dog live longer.

My first and most important takeaway from these studies?

1. Overweight dogs live less long

While in humans the science around weight and longevity is complicated, in dogs the research is very clear: do not let your dog get overweight.

Study after study has found that overweight dogs live shorter lives that are more filled with chronic disease, disability, injury, and suffering.

Study after study has found that overweight dogs live shorter lives that are more filled with chronic disease, disability, injury, and suffering.

A huge 2019 retrospective study of over 50,000 dogs in North America found that, “For all breeds, instantaneous risk of death for dogs in overweight body condition was greater than those in normal body condition,” and, “In all breeds, median life span was shorter in overweight compared with normal weight dogs.”

Maintaining lean body mass and keeping body fat lower were key components of dogs that lived an exceptionally long life, according to a 2016 study of 39 labrador retrievers. The authors concluded that, “life-long maintenance of lean body mass and attenuated accumulation of body fat were key factors in achieving a longer lifespan.”

Overweight dogs suffer more from osteoarthritis, and losing even 11%-18% of body weight can substantially improve their clinical lameness scores, according to a 2000 clinical trial.

Even in puppies, preventing them from being overweight is important for their longevity and cancer risk. A 2020 review looking at the link between canine diet and cancer found two different studies showing that “dogs with breast cancer had juvenile overweight more often than the control dogs.” 

puppy diet for longevity
This article series is really just an excuse for me to share cute puppy pictures.

Luckily, there’s no wrong time to get your dog to a healthy weight. For instance, a 2019 study of 39 labrador retrievers found that, “even rather late-life control efforts on body weight and the relationship between lean and fat mass may influence survival in dogs.”

Unfortunately, most people incorrectly assess the weight of their dog and thus overfeed them, leading to weight gain. Make sure you’re using some objective measure, like a dog scale, combined with growth charts, and a dog weight test like the dog body condition score to correctly track your dog’s body composition.

2. Less dog food = more dog life

My second big takeaway, which is related to the first, is: caloric restriction extends dog lifespan.

We’ve talked a lot about caloric restriction and fasting when it comes to human longevity, and it turns out the research pretty overwhelmingly supports this practice for dog life extension as well.

The biggest study in this space, and one that I had come across even before doing the research for this article series, is a 14-year study of 48 labrador retrievers by (ironically) the Purina Institute. They tested a 25% calorically restricted diet vs. a standard control diet (the food consumed was the same, just the quantity differed) and the results were pretty incredible.

Caloric restriction led to a “1.8 years longer median lifespan among diet-restricted dogs,” but also staved off a whole host of other physical maladies that the non-restricted dogs were subject to.

Caloric restriction led to a “1.8 years longer median lifespan among diet-restricted dogs”

For instance, the calorie-restricted dogs had lower rates and later onset of osteoarthritis: “Lifetime maintenance of 25% diet restriction delayed onset and reduced severity of hip joint osteoarthritis, thus favorably affecting both duration and quality of life.”

Dogs on the calorically-restricted diet also died from cancer almost two years later than those that were fed more food, though the numbers (five restriction-fed dogs vs six unrestricted) were not enough for the study to establish statistical significance.

Calorically-restricted dogs had better immune systems, better insulin sensitivity, and fewer chronic diseases.

Other studies also suggest—especially for large breeds—caloric restriction in puppies can help prevent bone diseases and cancers.

For instance, a 2019 review on risk factors for bone cancer noted, “To minimize the risk of developmental bone disease, it is currently recommended to limit energy intake in large breed puppies to prevent rapid growth.”

feeding large breed puppy for longevity
He still tucks his paws like this and it is the CUTEST.

A 2010 guide from Compendium: Continuing Education For Veterinarians cautioned, “Overnutrition in large-breed puppies leads to not only heavier body weight but also faster bone growth with abnormal bone remodeling. The end result is a larger but less dense skeletal structure supporting a load that is heavier than ideal.”

This is why many veterinarians now recommend not feeding commercial puppy food formulations, which are designed to be energy-dense compared to other formulations, to large or giant breed puppies as it could cause too-rapid, unmanaged growth.

3. Fasting beats grazing

And my third big takeaway for dog feeding (again, very highly-related to the first two): feed your dog less frequently.

As in the idea behind intermittent fasting for humans, there is some strong evidence that “time-restricted feeding”—or limiting your dog’s feeding window to a short period of the day—can positively impact their health and longevity.

Results from the Dog Aging Project, an ongoing dog longevity study of over 47,000 dogs and counting (Kipling’s one! You can enroll your dog here:, suggested that once-daily feeding is associated with all kinds of health benefits. These include better cognitive function, “and lower odds of having gastrointestinal, dental, orthopedic, kidney/urinary, and liver/pancreas disorders.”

Fasting has been known to induce autophagy (literally “self-eating,” where cells consume damaged parts for energy and replenish them once the fast is ended) and a 2023 study found that induced autophagy in dogs with dermatitis improves hair and skin health.

As with seemingly everything related to diet however, this feeding pattern may not be ideal for all dogs.

For instance, our dog Kipling is a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog and, as a giant breed, he can have issues with stomach acid buildup and vomiting bile if his stomach is empty for too long (we have woken up to him throwing up at 3am: not fun). Given that, we have opted to continue feeding him twice-a-day so that he maintains something in his stomach.

Additionally, according to a 2004 case study of 1,634 dogs, large-breed dogs at risk of gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) (also known as gastric torsion or twisted stomach), which can cause death if not treated rapidly, are more prone to it if they are “fed a larger volume of food once daily” (i.e. if you cram all their daily calories into one meal instead of spreading them out over several), and if the amount of food they eat daily is larger.

So, to reiterate my main takeaways from my research into dog nutrition for longevity:

  1. Keep your dog at a lean, healthy weight ideally from puppyhood. Do not overfeed or under-exercise them. You can track their ideal weight through many available charts.
  2. Feed your dog 25% less than the standard recommendations, again from puppyhood if possible. A pet food measuring cup is very helpful for this with dry dog food.
  3. Feed your dog only once-daily if their breed allows it (i.e. if your dog is not a large or giant breed).

And now, let’s dig into the more contentious specifics around best dog food brands, types, and meals.

Is raw food good for dog longevity?

Much like the human keto vs. carnivore vs high-carb diet debate, there are a lot of strong opinions when it comes to raw feeding for dogs.

Unfortunately, on the question of, “is raw or dry food better for dogs?” I didn’t find enough research on either side to really justify, in my mind, having a firm belief about it one way or the other.

Proponents of a raw food diet for dogs argue that wolves evolved to eat primarily raw meat, organs, and bones, and studies of wild dogs and dingos do suggest they still eat mostly raw meat out in the wild.

However, dogs are not wolves. They co-evolved with humans to be able to eat a lot of the foods humans eat, including starchy carbohydrates and cooked foods: “there are 3 genes, AMY2B, MGAM and SGLT1 that have evolved only in dogs during domestication and are involved in starch digestion and glucose uptake.”

Two scientific reviews on raw feeding for dogs, one from 2011 and another from 2019, basically concluded that while raw feeding has been shown to alter the intestinal microbiome (though whether in a positive or negative direction they didn’t say), there’s no evidence yet of other claimed benefits. Both reviews also pointed out that raw food had a higher danger of containing contaminants like e-coli that could possibly infect human members of the household.

A lot of raw-feeding sites point to a 2003 statistical essay for the Belgian Prince Laurent Foundation for animal welfare as proof that raw-feeding dogs leads to longer life. However, the essay is not a scientific study: it was never peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal, and never mentions raw-feeding. Instead it compares home-prepared meals to canned food, and claims the former provide a lifespan benefit over the latter. Since it uses self-reported data and, again, has never been peer-reviewed or, to my knowledge, released its methodology or data (it’s not even hosted on the official Prince Laurent Foundation website anymore), I don’t think it’s a trustworthy source for evaluating raw feeding and longevity in dogs.

In terms of possible raw dog diet benefits, one 2021 study found that raw-fed dogs had slightly higher health scores than those fed commercial kibble, but the authors couldn’t be sure if the difference was due to diet, or to differences in how owners managed and exercised their dogs. They noted that there was a “greater likelihood of management interventions including dietary supplements and sporting activities” in the raw fed group.

raw feeding puppies
MEAT makes puppies STRONG…maybe.

Additionally, there seems to be a greater risk of causing nutritional imbalances if you try to do raw feeding yourself and get it wrong.

For example a 2022 study on raw fed dogs using a questionnaire and a blood test concluded that, “Diet calculation revealed significantly more nutritional imbalances in the RMBD [raw meat based diet] group than in the control group.” It also found, “Low plasma taurine could be detected only in the RMBD group.”

Another review from 2015 agreed, finding “raw-meat diets often show nutritional imbalances. Over-supplementation and deficiencies of nutrients are frequently found, especially regarding calcium, the trace elements copper, zinc and iodine, vitamins A and D and the calcium : phosphorus ratio. This malnutrition can cause clinical symptoms. Therefore, checking and optimising the diet by a specialized veterinarian is strongly recommended.”

However, a 2018 study of four diets, including raw, kibble, and cooked, found that, “All diets were well tolerated and dogs remained healthy throughout the study. In conclusion, the lightly cooked and raw diets tested were highly palatable, highly digestible, reduced blood triglycerides, maintained fecal quality and serum chemistry, and modified the fecal microbial community of healthy adult dogs.”

So it seems, as long as you’re making sure to provide all the adequate nutrients (run your feeding plan by a veterinarian or use a tool like Balance It to make sure), a raw diet likely won’t hurt your dog. There just doesn’t seem to be a ton of research indicating it will particularly help them live longer either.

Note: Pretty much all of the above findings (with the exception of e-coli risk) also seem to apply to non-raw home-prepared diets for dogs like cooked chicken and rice. Nutrition deficiencies seem to be the biggest risk, but beyond that I could find no good research on whether home-prepared meals will lead to a longer or shorter lifespan for your dog (the example of Bobi notwithstanding).

The best dog food brands on the market

But isn’t dry kibble just processed junk food that is harmful to dogs?

Well, it depends.

Some brands of commercial dog food certainly aren’t great.

For instance, a 2021 study of 36 dry dog foods in Europe found that, “Mold presence was reported in one cereal-free dog food and in six cereal foods.”

And almost all heat-processed dog foods appear to have a high amount of “advanced glycation end-products,” or AGEs. We’ve talked about AGEs before in relation to grilling, but it’s strongly suspected they can contribute to cancer and cardiovascular risk in humans.

Unfortunately, according to several studies (one from 2014, and one from 2022), commercial dog foods, which are almost all produced using heat, contain very high levels of AGEs. In fact, the 2014 study estimated that dogs fed commercial diets may consume 122 times more AGEs daily than humans do. Wet dog foods seemed to be worse in this respect than dry dog foods.

Additionally, even if you do your research and select a supposedly quality dog food brand based on its ingredients, there’s a chance the ingredients label is wrong. According to a 2018 review, “The mislabeling of pet foods appears rather common, even in those with “novel” or “limited” ingredients proposed for elimination diets. Unexpected added ingredients are more frequently detected than those missing from the label.”

Finally, back in 2018 the FDA stepped in to investigate a claim that certain commercial grain-free dog foods made with alternative fillers like peas, lentils, and potatoes, were causing dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs (which can often lead to death).

grain free dog food brands and dcm
Source: FDA

The American Kennel Club has a great overview of the research that has happened since then, suggesting peas may be a primary culprit.

Most of the dog food brands listed in the investigation have since changed their formulations, and the FDA has recorded fewer instances of DCM being reported to them, but it’s something to be aware of nonetheless.

So if you’re not sold on the benefits of raw feeding your dog, and you don’t trust yourself to come up with a nutritionally complete, home-prepared diet, how do you select a good commercial dog food that will minimize the health risks to your pup?

Other than avoiding wet canned foods, foods cooked/dried using extreme heat, and foods that contain pulse vegetables like peas, lentils, and chickpeas, and some tubers like potatoes, there are some other ways you can narrow down the options to find healthy dog foods.

While there are a lot of websites rating and ranking different dog food brands, including Consumer Affairs and Spruce Eats, few of the reviews I read seemed to be current with the scientific literature about dog food and health. For instance, only Consumer Affairs noted a higher likelihood of AGEs in wet dog food, and even then their rankings seem based on consumer ratings and reviews rather than a rigorous selection process.

What to feed puppies for life extension
I select…dish wun.

The most comprehensive rating and review of commercial dog foods that I was able to find was a 2019 investigation by In that study the team reviewed over 3,000 commercial dog food brands and, using some straightforward criteria, culled that list down to a little under 600 “satisfactory” products. Of these they selected five which they considered to be the top products in each category.

Unfortunately, the team have not repeated their investigations since 2019 and their original can only be found in archived form on the Wayback Machine as it is no longer on their current website.

However, their methodology still seems sound and you can use similar criteria when evaluating the top dog food brands for longevity. When paired with the additional criteria based on the studies above, a sample checklist for how to find the best dog food brands on the market for life extension might look like:

  1. No canned, wet dog food.
  2. Air dried or dried using a low-temperature method.
  3. Does not contain pulses like peas, lentils, or chickpeas, or tubers like potatoes.
  4. Does not contain other ingredients known to be toxic to dogs, including: garlic, onion, avocados, grapes, chocolate, leeks, scallions, chives, or shallots.
  5. Does not contain unnamed meat products like “meat meal,” “meat and bone meal” or “byproduct meal.”
  6. Contains a named, whole animal protein as the first ingredient.
  7. Does not contain a non-meat filler as the first or second ingredient.
  8. Does not contain artificial preservatives like propylene glycol.
  9. Does not contain opaque and unregulated “natural flavor” ingredients.
  10. Has a statement that it meets Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards for a “complete and balanced” dog food.

Hopefully that can at least serve as a guide to help you find the best dried dog food for longevity for your pup.

Dog food supplements and therapeutic diets

But beyond dry vs. wet dog food, and raw/home-prepared vs. commercial, can the makeup of your dog’s diet affect their longevity?

There’s some research suggesting that certain speciality and therapeutic diets may be helpful for dogs to manage certain diseases like osteoarthritis, cancer, and kidney disease.

For instance, a therapeutic ketogenic diet may do much the same in dogs as it does in humans, lowering inflammation (combined with intermittent fasting), moderating epilepsy symptoms, and possibly slowing cancer growth.

And dogs with chronic kidney disease that were fed a therapeutic, low-protein renal diet “had survival time 3 times higher than those that consumed maintenance diets.”

So if your pup has a specific medical condition, it’s worth searching PubMed for that condition plus “therapeutic diet” to see what comes up.

Certain dietary supplements may also improve your dog’s health.

For example, green-lipped mussel and omega 3 fatty acids like fish oil seem to improve symptoms of arthritis in dogs.

Fish oil may also help with things like cancer, with one study finding a diet supplemented with that and arginine increased survival time by three months for dogs with lymphoma.

Other oils like olive oil may have beneficial effects on things like reproductive health in dogs

However, it would take an entire article to really explore all the different supplements and compounds that may help your dog live longer.

Which is exactly why we’re going to publish one in two weeks!

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A healthy dog diet plan: How I plan to feed Kipling

As a Swissy, Kipling is a large/giant-breed dog, and so he has some unique considerations in terms of feeding. For example, as noted above, feeding him only once-a-day puts him at higher risk of gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) as well as stomach acid buildup, so we feed him twice-daily.

Additionally, some research on large-breed dogs indicates they are at less risk of GDV if table scraps are also included in their dry food, and if they eat from a bowl that is not elevated off the floor. The same review also found that “dry diets with oil or fat among the first four ingredients were associated with a 2.4 times increase in the risk of developing GDV.”

Given all that, and combined with the findings above on caloric restriction and fasting, our dog longevity diet plan for Kipling going forward is roughly:

  • Twice daily feeding (we currently do 9am and 9pm)
  • 25% caloric restriction (for his size this roughly equates to about three cups of dry food a day)
  • Feeding a quality commercial dog food that does not contain oil or fat in the first four ingredients. Possibly something like Fromm, Open Farm, The Honest Kitchen, or RedBarn, which seem to get good ratings across the board.
  • Adding some table scraps to the bowl (especially salmon for the fish oil benefits) on occasion.
  • Supplement in the mornings with some olive oil and possibly fish oil.

I also plan on exploring and experimenting with home-prepared meals, but only after I really understand nutrient deficiencies and clear any feeding plan with a vet.

Nutrition is one of the most direct, daily areas of your dog’s life where you can have a meaningful impact on their health, so thanks for sticking with me through this long article!

Another daily area where you can impact your dog’s longevity is exercise, and that’s the topic we’re covering in depth next week.

Sign up below to be notified as soon as that article goes live!

Get notified when we publish new posts!

Note: Save the Dog Aging Project!
One of the best sources for research studies on dog longevity has been the Dog Aging Project, an NIH-funded study of over 45,000 dogs that’s already provided landmark insights into how to make dogs (and eventually people!) live longer. Unfortunately, as of publication in 2024, NIH is threatening to pull the funding for this crucial scientific endeavor. Please help save the Dog Aging Project by signing this petition: You can also donate directly to the project here:

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