Friday, December 5, 2014

Addressing obesity in dogs may be more nuanced than previously thought, according to new study

A new study reveals that obesity in humans and canines share similarities, including one that's unexpected.

In the latest issue of the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, an abstract fleshes out the study. 14 beagles were included — seven of them fed a commercial food to increase their weight (which happened, they gained about 11 lbs. each), while seven other beagles were fed a restricted amount of the same food to maintain their optimal weight.

After six months, researchers tested the fecal samples of all of the dogs. Those who were at an optimal weight had higher amounts of desirable microbes called Firmicutes in the gut, while dogs in the other group harbored more Proteobacteria, a less-favorable Gram-negative bacteria.

The obese dogs also had a less diverse level of intestinal microflora than their thin counterparts, which is also been demonstrated in humans.

It's thought that Proteobacteria may lead to an increase in lipopolysaccharides (which form a protective membrane within the cell wall of Gram-negative bacteria) — something that has a negative effect on the immune system of mammals and has even been tied to weight gain in mice.

Though more research is needed to further understand the role of gut bacteria and weight in dogs, it seems to make sense to keep our pets on the lean side, as it appears that doing so allows for more-favorable types of Firmicutes to thrive, while staving off the growth of Proteobacteria.

Here's another theory stemming from the study: the decrease of serotonin in obese dogs may increase the likelihood of keeping the weight on, as the neurotransmitter increases appetite.

Optimal body condition also helps to add to a pet's overall health — one of the most important being the reduction of the effects of arthritis, as less weight means less stress on the joints. Click here for my interview with Crystal Eberly, DVM of Washtenaw Veterinary Hospital more on strategies to safely reduce weight in dogs.

For more on other findings of the study, Association of Obesity with Serum Leptin, Adiponectin, and Serotonin and Gut Microflora in Beagle Dogs, click here.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

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