In my previous article, I began discussing the factors that affect weight in our pets, briefly mentioning the simple idea of energy balance and how much goes into the body versus how much is spent each day.
Picture a bucket being filled with water, but a hole is in the bottom. If you put too much in, it overflows. In a dog’s case, he or she gets fat. If you put in too little, it empties or your dog wastes away.
Now, let us discuss the factors that control how much energy is needed.
Resting energy requirements are inherent, namely internal organ function and survival. But lifestyle is a huge variable. Young dogs need more energy. Dogs with heavy workloads such as true working sled dogs or herding dogs need more energy. So do expectant and nursing mothers. Short of chronic disease issues, such as cancer, not a lot of other variables exist.
Thus, the average adult dog food will have feeding-level recommendations on the bag or can, but these are often hugely variable. So keeping a close watch on your dog is essential to controlling his weight.
If the bag suggests 3 cups and he becomes obese, he most likely doesn’t fit the parameters. The same goes for underweight dogs who fail to gain weight on the suggested food amount.
Those represent inherent energy needs. How much activity you encourage your dog to get is the biggest variable. I see many dogs who were adopted so the human owner would have a reason to be more active and get into better shape. But sadly, I often see the dog become sedentary and overweight instead. Sort of the same situation as a drowning person dragging a rescuer down with them.
Certain breeds also have predispositions toward obesity. I am always pleasantly surprised when I see a svelte beagle, but it is sadly rare. Cute dogs tend to tug the heart strings and smart dogs know emotional blackmail like the back of their paw. If you have either of these, beware their charms. They may end up cute, smart and fat, which is unhealthy.
Next week: The detrimental effects of overweight animals.
Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at email@example.com.