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Is your dog overweight, & why commercial dog food can be to blame
The basics of food intake and diet for humans is that if you want to maintain weight you need to balance energy intake (of food) versus energy expenditure (exercise). For dogs this has massively been complicated by the creation of manufactured dog foods.
If you want to know how to fix feeding issues & dog obesity, read on.
What I am about to tell you may not seem breakthrough, however many people have gotten the basics of feeding wrong, accidentally, much to the detriment of obese dogs.
There are many philosophies about feeding dogs and cats. Some people exclusively use manufactured dog foods like pellets and cans, while other use a true natural raw diet. I believe strongly in the second option, but the first option can be managed a lot better based on the following simple principles.
Firstly an appreciation of what a balanced dog diet should be considered.
There are two classes of nutrients that dogs require in their diet. Essential nutrients are those components that cannot be synthesised by the body at a rate that is adequate to meet the bodies needs - hence dogs need to obtain these in their food.
Non essential nutrients can be made inside of the dogs body or obtained through diet.
Energy is one of the most critical components of a dogs diet. Energy in dogs is required to maintain and create body tissues, engage in physical work and regulate body temperature.
The reason that matching the best energy providing foods for your dog are important is that while dogs need essential amino acids and Essential fatty acids (EFA) from dietary fat, "the energy yielding nutrients of a diet are first used to satisfy energy needs, .. THEN nutrients can be available for the other critical metabolic functions. " Ref 1 If there are not enough essential nutrients in the manufactured food, or they have to eat too much of it to get sufficient nutrients, then their health will suffer.
You should also know that "cats and dogs evolved to that they are capable of regulating their energy intake to ACCURATELY meet their daily KJ energy requirements. When allowed free access to a balanced, moderately palatable diet, most dogs and cats will consume enough food to meet, but not exceed, their daily energy needs." Ref 1
The case against manufactured dog food, and highly processed grain dog treats
At this stage, you should think about how wolves or wild dogs eat. They hunt in packs and eat what they need. They stay lean to be able to continue future hunts, they dont have to micro manage their diet, they have a natural shut off mechanism.
Now you need to consider what energy density means to a domestic dog's diet. Energy density refers to the concentration of energy in a given quantity of food. When energy density is decreased in a food, animals respond by increasing the quantity they eat. This provides a constant energy intake for the animal and for regular exercise, their weight is maintained.
NOTE if an animal's food intake is regulated by total energy intake, the composition of all other nutrients in the diet must be balanced with respect to the diets energy density. "This balance should be calculated to ensure that, when a dog or cat consumes a quantity of food adequate to meet their energy needs, all other nutrient requirements are met in the same volume of food." Ref 1
This is where the natural food intake goes wrong
The above ideal situation is mostly met when animals are in the wild eating food they have caught or found. that is because the meat they eat is 100% natural and they evolved to gain all the required nutrients from this meat. In contrast, Man-made environmental factors are often the main reason for dog obesity. They include:
"unrestricted access to foods that are both highly (unnaturally) palatable and energy dense." ref 1
The author of this reference book note that "today's competitive pet food market includes many foods that are high in both palatability and calorific density. Coupled with this fact is a decline in physical activity among many pets in today's society." Yes, that means all those dogs that are not given at least one daily long off lead vigorous dog walk.
The dual affect of artificially increased palatability (and abnormally high density foods) and lack of exercise has caused an epidemic of dog and cat obesity.
These changes in food intake and lifestyle of pets means that we can no longer expect dogs and cats to be able to regulate their food intake to match their energy requirements.
The book goes onto say that portion controlled diets are the best answer, but there is another way. Yes from a behavioural point of view and alpha dog status, owners should consider only feeding their dogs at set times and removing uneaten portions of food, but more than that, raw food, with a natural energy density and palatability is the obvious answer.
If you want to rely on pet food companies to put in the right amount of ingredients and the right level of nutrients (usually in the form of inappropriate cheap grains) you can, but you will also be feeding your dog artificially boosted overly-palatable foods that means like candy to a baby, your dog will want more and more and eat in excess.
Your pet will more likely beg and you to feed it more and you will sometimes either cave-in or penalise your dog for begging. Raw food (meat, bones and offal) on the other hand are 100% natural without any artificial boost in palatability or energy density. Besides a raw meat feed dog being healthier, you are more likely to be able to skip this whole over eating issue.
In man made food you will find tricks such as adding sugar to boost palatablity. You will find that they will make pellets smaller, knowing that if a dog or cat doesnt have to chew it will eat more of their product. You will find in many canned dog and cat foods something known as TVP'S (SOY made to look and feel like meat).
Yes daily dog walks are highly recommended for all dogs, and will provide a healthier dog as well as having them earn their food (balancing their body and mind) however relying on a corporation (profit driven) dog food manufacturer to do right by your dog is a massive risk. They are created to provide the most cost effective ingredients that your dog can not resist (in an artificial way).
As a side line, healthy meat based dog treats, are an ideal supplement for all dogs whether you continue to feed your dog manufactured dog foods or a natural raw diet. If they are mainly based on meat and don't have added sugar to artificially boost palatability, you can be sure that the reason your dog is craving the treat is because it is natural meat, and not because they are being fooled into eating more, potentially unbalanced grain/ vegetable concoctions.
Article by Bruce Dwyer. If you wish to use any of this information please refer to the article as a reference and provide a link to www.healthydogtreats.com.au
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Pg 4 Canine and Feline Nutrition - Case, Dairtotle, Hayek, Raasch