By 2045 a quarter of the world will be obese. But it’s not just us humans facing this epidemic, our furry friends are suffering too. For a long time, we’ve known that overweight people have certain personality traits that increase their risk of weight gain, and now it turns out that obese dogs have some of these traits too.
Of course, there are many things that play a role in obesity in dogs. Certain breeds, such as Labradors, beagles, and cocker spaniels, are genetically predisposed to becoming overweight, just like certain people are. But scientists haven’t really looked at the so-called “emotional” aspects that play a role in the development of obesity in dogs. That is, until now.
A team of researchers, led by Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, set out to determine the “personality” characteristics of overweight dogs. Their findings are published in Royal Society Open Science.
First, they looked at whether the animals found high-energy food irresistible. The furry participants were presented with a low-energy bowl of food and a high-energy bowl of food. Meanwhile, a human would indicate towards the low-energy meal, encouraging the dogs to go for that dinner option. The researchers then recorded how long the dogs would listen to this person for before diving into the tasty unhealthy option.
The dogs were then presented with a bowl of food where the energy content was ambiguous. The researchers measured how keen the animals were to devour the meal.
They found that overweight dogs tended to dive into the high-energy food faster than those of a healthy weight, and were more likely to simply ignore the human’s directions. Meanwhile, when it came to the ambiguous snack, overweight dogs were more hesitant about eating it. This is just how obese people would react, suggesting that dogs and people do share certain cognitive traits when it comes to gaining weight. Therefore, turning to dogs as experimental models could help us understand more about obesity in people.
However, the team point out that there might be another explanation for their findings. Chubby dogs’ bodies might be more sensitive when it comes to regulating energy, making them naturally favor rich foods. More research is needed to find out.
While it’s interesting to see parallels between obese humans and overweight dogs, it’s vital to remember that these poor creatures are incredibly unhealthy and that we as their owners can control what they eat. Just like in people, obesity in dogs comes with all sorts of nasty health complications, including diabetes, skin problems, liver disease, lameness, and heart problems. What’s more, you're more likely to lose your pooch sooner if it’s overweight.
Since some dogs might have genetic or “personality” traits that make them overeat and favor richer foods, it’s key to feed your dog a healthy, balanced diet. You can tell if your dog needs to shed a few pounds by feeling his or her ribs and spine. If you can’t feel them beneath a thin layer of fat, it’s time for a doggy diet. You can check out how best to feed your dog here.
[H/T: The Conversation]