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Nutrition Nuggets
 
 
Your dog's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your dog, how much food to feed, and the differences in dog foods, so your dog gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Dog Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of dog nutrition.

Preventing Obesity: Start With Your Puppy

December 16, 2011 / (2) comments

I have a problem with roly-poly puppies. Of course, puppies shouldn’t be "lean, mean, fighting machines," but when a puppy crosses the line from normal "baby fat" to just plain fat, I find it concerning.

 

More and more research is beginning to show that once fat is laid down in the human body, it alters an individual’s metabolism for the long run and makes it extremely difficult to achieve lasting weight-loss. Below is a quote from Losing Weight: A Battle Against Fat And Biology, by Patti Neighmond, that I heard on NPR a few weeks back:

 

When you begin to lose pounds, levels of the hormone leptin, which is produced by fat cells, begin to drop. That sends a message to the brain that the body's "fat storage" is shrinking. The brain perceives starvation is on the way and, in response, sends out messages to conserve energy and preserve calories. So, metabolism drops.

And then other brain signals tell the body it's "hungry," and it sends out hormones to stimulate the appetite. The combination of lowered metabolism and stimulated appetite equals a "double whammy," says Ryan (Dr. Donna Ryan, associate director for clinical research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La). And that means the person who's lost weight can't consume as much food as the person who hasn't lost weight.

For example, if you weigh 230 pounds and lose 30 pounds, you cannot eat as much as an individual who has always weighed 200 pounds. You basically have a "caloric handicap," says Ryan. And depending on how much weight people lose, they may face a 300-, 400- or even 500-calorie a day handicap, meaning you have to consume that many fewer calories a day in order to maintain your weight loss.

 

Although this and some of the other research I’ve seen is about humans, I’d be willing to bet that the same rules apply to our canine and feline friends. There are two key learnings from this report that can be applied to our pets:

 

  1. Do not let your pets get fat in the first place. Starting in puppyhood, and continuing throughout their lives, limit treats, table scraps and any other "extras" to only 10 percent of your dogs' total caloric intake. The rest of their diet should consist of a well-balanced food made from healthy ingredients that takes care of all of their nutritional needs. Feed only the amount of food necessary to maintain a lean body condition and make sure your dogs are getting plenty of exercise.
  2.  

  3. If your pet is overweight, think of it as a chronic medical condition and not something that can be fixed with a short-term diet. Once you get him/her back to a healthy weight, you cannot go back to your old ways of feeding. Continue to limit the "extras" and focus on the quality as well as the quantity of the food that you are offering your dog. Since your dog will need to "watch the calories" for the rest of his/her life, make sure that the calories he/she does take in are not empty. Foods made from high-quality sources of protein, carbohydrates, fats/oils, vitamins and minerals are essential to healthy weight-maintenance and will ensure that your dog is getting all the nutrients needed.

 

 

Dr. Jennifer Coates

 

Image: WilleeCole / via Shutterstock

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Comments  2

Leave Comment
  • Good Advice
    12/16/2011 07:16am

    That's excellent advice for dogs, cats AND humans!

  • Science
    12/16/2011 01:06pm

    Great advice, but you don't just have to be "willing to bet." There is scientific evidence that these things are true for pets as well.

    We know that in cats who were fed restricted amounts of food and lost weight showed decreased energy expenditure, and that this was maintained after they regained the weight. This may explain the common experience of difficulty in getting cats to lose weight and maintain that loss over time. (Villaverde et al. 2008)

    Also, and perhaps more importantly, it has been shown that dogs who were kept lean over their lifetimes, using proper feeding management practices, had a longer lifespan and less effects of chronic disease (quality of life). This is big news (and we've known about it for almost a decade)! Maintenance of a lean body condition is THE ONLY THING proven to extend lifespan in dogs! (Kealy et al. 2002)

    PubMed is a great resource - there is a lot of knowledge out there.

 



ABOUT NUTRITION NUGGETS

JENNIFER COATES, DVM

Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.

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