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Dog: ascetics and gluttons

Appetite of dogs as of other animals depends of many factors. There are two nuclei inside dog's brain - the nucleus of hunger and the nucleus of satiety. Irritation of one of the nuclei changes dog's attitude to food. The excitement may appear just as a response to an irritator. For example, when a dog smells fried meat he wants to eat, and the secretion o saliva is aroused. The irritation may be caused by exposure to more complex reactions, say, when a dog hears the jingling spoons in the kitchen. This sound arouses its appetite regardless of the fact that he has just taken meal.

Beside this, dog's emotional state may affect its' appetite. When he is bored or sad he may express the desire to eat much more than he needs for a normal work of its' organism. Strong flavoring irritators, such as spices, may arouse an excessive appetite too.As a matter of fact, humans know what the mechanical satiety is: this is the state when one eats so much as his stomach is unable to hold more. Fortunately, in case of dogs the satiety as a result of changes of chemical composition of stomach content comes earlier than the mechanical. This is of special importance. If a dog felt satiety only when its' stomach is full to the maximum, he would permanently overeat. After all, it's nearest natural relative - wolf - eats far not so often - 2-3 times a week, but he can eat up to 10 kg at once.The stomach of our dogs is also able to stretch considerably. But, once again, fortunately most of them feel satiety earlier.

Why the dog declines to eat?

A dog may decline to eat in case if his digestive tract is damaged, for example if a piece of bone has gotten stuck in his mouth or there're some foreign objects in the stomach.

A dog may reject food also if he's got a high temperature or if he just feels himself badly. At any disease a hunger may help the organism reestablish its normal physiology. Thus don't force the dog to eat, as you shouldn't force children. If an animal is ill he won't eat - this helps the organism to apply all the efforts to recovery.

Sometimes a dog declines to eat because he feels grief, for example if somebody of the household died or was hospitalized. A dog may also refuse food in case if he's directly engaged into some other activity - game, hunting, or mating (in case of males).

A dog that is usually fed with an abundant and tasty food may also refuse to eat because the new food that is offered to him is not tasty enough or unfits. Though less than cats, dogs nonetheless are attached to certain kinds of products and may occur conservative in their habits.

Anyway in case if your dog rejects food many times during more than one or two days, take him to a veterinarian 'cause this may be owing to some serious disease. The vet will quickly disclose the reason. The treatment started in time is a pledge of successful recovery of your friend. Often the doctor himself holds the opinion that it may be useful for a dog to go without food for a while. Be in earnest about his advice, don't break it and don't worry about your patient's health. Dogs especially those well nourished may go without food for many days like their wild relatives. Only if the dog declines to eat for very long time and the organism begins to use the building material of muscular and skeletal tissues for recovery the refusal of food may do harm to the organism. Sometimes according to an advice of vet in charge a probe feeding or some other kind of compulsory feeding may be applied.

What is gluttony?

If a dog eats much more than it needs for keeping organism functions at a normal state or he eats everything he can find, one may state the dog is too gluttonous. The reason for this event may be a bad habit, resulting from that all day long the owners give pieces of their food to a dog, as well as different kinds of diseases - for example, helminthiases (infection of helminthes), disorders of alimentary tract that cause bad assimilation, and other.

It is well known that old dogs tend to be voracious. As a rule the cause for this is slackening of gustatory sense and senile disorders of mental abilities. Depending on reasons a gluttonous dog may quickly grow fat or on the contrary suddenly grow thin. If the dog grows fat quickly this may later cause disorders of circulation of blood in heart and liver and, no doubt, reduce your pets' lifetime. You'd hardly be able to help the dog on your own. In this case we recommend a vet's consultation. As he determines the reason of gluttony the vet will prescribe the necessary diet and correct dog handling.

If you keep all the recommendations the dog will recover his good form, and his normal appetite will be regulated.

For this see to maintain the following rules:

- The conditions of feeding (kind of food, dish, place and time of feeding) should, where possible, be always the same

- Every dog prefers eating more tasty food rather than less tasty, therefore it is easier to detect the dog has altered his attitude to food by giving him more tasty food

- Gustatory qualities of food mainly depend of its' composition (components) and the way of cooking

- Many dogs are unable to regulate their requirements for food by their own. One must give them food in portions exactly measured

- Dogs that tend to be too gluttonous should be weighted routinely.

Translated by Tatiana Karpova (Moscow)
(MSU, Biology faculture, Dep. zoology and ecology).