Obesity and Exercise Needs
Over 50% of domestic dogs and cats are considered clinically overweight or obese, amounting to several million on both ends. Why is this happening, you might wonder? What can you do to help?
In the wild, wolves had (and still do) to coordinate intricate pack hunting activities, track animals for several miles some times and even guard their kills from other predators. All this required tremendous amounts of energy! Believe it or not, Grey wolves would sometimes go for several days without eating, making the process that much harder.
Most biologists think dogs began to evolve from wolves around 14 thousand years ago, choosing an easier life of feeding from human left overs rather than the demanding hunt. Even then, these early dogs still had to fend for themselves, finding their own shelter, water, and caring for their own young. Life was still demanding.
Slowly, over time, through natural selection and human selective breeding, we got the over 400 dog breeds of today. No longer do today’s pets have to work for food and shelter; everything is simply given to them.
Their three main senses, able to smell a scent days old from miles away, easily hear the footsteps of tiny rodents and clearly see a rabbit darting in the distance, all evolved over millennia to augment their considerable hunting skills, are no longer used to hunt anything. So what happens to an animal that is no longer able to do what it was naturally intended to?
Why So Many Dogs Are Overweight
There are two main reasons why so many dogs are overweight.The first, and most obvious, reason is exercise! No dog on earth evolved to wait at home all day for an owner that proceeds to sit on the couch and watch television; they need exercise. After all, many breeds today were originally bred to perform some type of physical work.
Labradors were originally bred to work long hours each day with fishermen.
Both Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes were bred to pull heavy loads over long distances.
Border Collies (and several other breeds) were bred to herd sheep.
Rottweilers were bred during Roman times to protect stock animals, among many other tasks.
Rat Terriers were bred to work as ratting dogs, helping control the rodent population.
Then you have the multitude of hunting breeds, like Jack Russells, Dachshunds and Basset Hounds. These are just a few of the many tasks dogs are able to perform, earning themselves plenty of exercise!
Poor nutrition is the second leading cause of obesity in both dogs and cats today. The most popular pet food brands in the world, fed to the majority of both dogs and cats all over the globe, are so popular mostly because they are very cheap and save the consumer money.
Sadly, most pet owners simply believe what they see on television or what they hear from friends, never stopping to ask themselves ‘why is this food so cheap’? In the end, in expensive dog food brands-like Purina, Iams, Alpo, and many others, cost next to nothing because they are little more than bags of corn (very cheaply made).
Dogs Bodies Are Different
The natural canine diet in the wild gets about 15%, or less,of their calories from carbohydrates. Unlike humans who use carbs (sugars) as our main form of energy production, dogs simply have no need for them.
The average pet today gets about 40-50% of his calories from carbs! Dogs are carnivores meant to eat meat; all these starchy plant based foods are not good for them. All this sugar they don’t even need at all often means a whole lot of weight gain.
Before purchasing a pet food, invest some time and research! Remember, if something is cheap, it is cheap for a reason. When it comes to dog food, you often get what you pay for!
Now that you know why so many dogs are overweight, helping fix the problem is only a few steps away! Outside of improving your pet’s diet along with offering daily exercise, consider asking your veterinarian for advice. It’s much easier to help a healthy pet stay healthy than help an unhealthy one loose weight!
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