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Obesity and low-calorie diet

Research studies have revealed that when a fat dog consumes only 50 to 70 percent of calories needed to keep her optimal weight this is the safe and effective method to lose weight. The main condition of success in applying this diet is the owner's belief that his/her pet is too plump and this may have grave consequences for the dog's health. The owner should also comprehend the necessity of making changes in feeding routine and animal's way of life. If the owner doesn't fully agree with it, none of the programs to lose weight would have a result.

The first stage in struggling obesity is to determine the optimal weight for the animal by comparing it either with the breed standard weight or with the dog, which has the same size and normal build. Before applying treatment one should set on reasonable aims. For the animals with a very excessive weight it is recommended to obtain the 15 to 20 percent loss of weight at first, and then to course to the desirable weight.

At this, one is able to calculate the energy demands, necessary to keep the weight at its optimum, and the corresponding amount of food (see example). To decrease the calorie content in the animal's diet one may reduce the amount of ordinary food or change it for the ration not so rich in calories. The advantage of using the low-calorie diet is that despite it has less calories, it contains all the proteins, vitamins and minerals needed. The portion is rather big and thus, allows the animal feel satisfied.

Overfed animals are usually more fastidious. Low-calorie food is less appetizing owing to low fats content and abundance of cellulose. This can be improved by adding the food the animal is used to make the flavor better or by mixing with whey instead of water.

To slake hunger it would be best to divide the ration into two or three portions along the day. The animal must not get any other food between feedings. The only possible tidbits are apples and carrots. To make a progress in applying the diet and keeping up the optimal weight later, the owner should be strict as regards to a diet. No indulgence to the feeding instinct must be allowed.

Now there is the EXAMPLE of calculating the energy demands and the amount of food for the period of working in the program of losing weight.

Input data: Labrador, suffering obesity, weight - 35 kg.

Optimal weight: for the dog of the same size with normal build the appropriate level is 28 kg.

Energy demands: the supporting energy demands are determined on the basis of 132 kcal per each kg of body weight, i.e. 132 x 28 = 1600 kcal

Limited consumption: stating the limit degree as 60 percent of the daily consumption is 1600 kcal x 0.6 > 960 kcal

Food portion: taking 3060 kcal as the calorie content for 1 kg of dry food, the daily ration is equal to 960 / 3060 / 0.3 kg = 300 g. At two times-a-day feeding the portion is 150 g, at three-times-a-day regimen - 100 g. If the instruction doesn't appoint the amount of water to be added, just keep the ratio.

Program length: at 50 percent limit degree the animal loses 2 % of weight weekly. At 60 percent limit degree it is 1.5 %, at 70 percent it is 1 %. In our case the dog has to lose 35 - 28 = 7 kg, that is 7:35 = 0.2, i.e. 20 percent of the present weight. Taking into account 60 percent limit degree the program will last 20:15 = 13 weeks.

It is desirable to weigh the dog once a week and put the points on the diagram. After the weight reaches its optimum, the animal may be left on a low-calorie diet or transfer him to the supporting regimen with low fats content in the food. If changing the diet the ration should be such that the dog's weight stayed the same. If the initial optimal weight was overestimated the owner can choose another optimum and apply another diet. It's worth mentioning that in this case the time to achieve the optimal weight may last for up to 18 weeks.

THE SECOND METHOD to get rid of overweight is to increase the energy consumption. However considerable loss of weight requires very active training. For example, a man walking on the "running track" 6 km/hr during 30 min spends 270 kcal that is equal to energy stored in 34 g of adipose tissue (after 30 hours of walk the body loses 1 kg of weight). There is no similar data for domestic animals, but one may easily conclude it's almost impossible to obtain considerable loss of weight by physical trainings.

The refusal of bad "feeding" habits (refraining from eating between meals, during watching TV and so on) is the main point while keeping to the diet for humans. Changing the way of life also plays an important role both for animals and their owners to stay in the optimal physical form. Owners should not allow animals to be in the kitchen or the dining-room while humans take meals. They should not get any food between feedings. The only dainties admissible are apples, carrots and other fruits and vegetables. The better praise for the dog is to go for a walk than to get a tidbit.

To inhibit hunger and to increase energy consumption the medicine uses special drugs. Nonetheless almost all drugs have side effects. Despite publications about promising results, the veterinary has not yet used such medicines.

Though dogs differ greatly for their demands in calories, the portion of food specified on the package is average. The dog may have energy demands 20 percent lower or higher than the recommended supply. Therefore it is essential to calculate the portion for the certain case. Fastidious dogs (fats are an important factor to make the food appetizing) as well as the dogs with squeamish stomach may need more fatty food, i.e. rich in calories. When using this food one should very accurately keep up with the dog's optimal weight.

When the diet program is finished, the dog may again put on weight. This is a real problem and is especially serious if the diet was strict. When a human or an animal is deprived from the source of energy he/it starts to consume food more effectively and the organism learns how to cut down the energy consumption. Hence, the amount of food, necessary to keep the normal weight of the ordinary dog, may lead to overweight in the dog with the same constitution but that has just stopped the diet program. After the weight reached its optimum, the ration should be increased gradually. If the owner decides to use the supporting diet with some other food, the amount should be calculated so that the animal got the same calories as in the end of low-calorie diet program and then little by little the owner should modify the ration to keep the optimal body weight.

For humans and laboratory animals the alteration between putting on and losing weight is not unusual. This is a so-called cyclic fluctuations or "harmonica". It was proved that such weight fluctuations are harmful. Therefore after the body weight reaches its optimum it is highly important to keep it in the necessary range.

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