We all want access to essential information to understand what is metabolism and how it affects our bodies, lives, and everyday activities. This includes what we eat, how we eat, how we exercise, and how all our daily events affect our body and how it processes energy. But what do we know about metabolism in animals, especially animals we bring into our home and make a part of our family, like dogs? We often don’t think about metabolism outside of the human experience. We talk about it when wanting to lose weight or if diagnosed with diabetes.
Metabolism isn’t unique to humans. Metabolism is the sum of all biochemical reactions in an organism’s body – everything has an embolism, from humans to animals to plants, every living organism.
Animals, like humans, need food to fuel their bodies. Food is the primary source of energy for animals and humans alike. For instance, proteins from your food are broken down into their parts (amino acids) and may be used to build new proteins in your cells. If you eat more than enough food to replenish your energy, food energy may also be stored as glycogen (a chain of linked glucose molecules) or as triglycerides (fat molecules) for later use.
The difference is heat. The business of extracting energy from fuel molecules and using it for cellular power reactions is not a perfectly efficient process. No energy transfer can be perfectly efficient – that’s a fundamental law of physics. Instead, some amount is converted when energy changes forms into a non-usable form. In an animal’s metabolism reactions, much of the energy stored in fuel molecules is released as heat.
The amount of energy used by an animal over time is called its metabolic rate. Animals can use (and regulate) their metabolic heat production to maintain a relatively constant body temperature. These animals, called endotherms, include mammals, such as humans, as well as birds. On the other hand, ectotherms don’t use metabolic heat production to maintain a constant body temperature; their body temperature changes with the environment. Lizards and snakes are examples of ectotherms.
Metabolism for Dogs
Many factors can affect a dog’s metabolism. Muscles are the primary driver of metabolism — healthy, strong muscles are necessary to maintain a healthy metabolic rate. As dogs age, their amount of muscle mass tends to decrease slowly. If a dog isn’t burning as many calories, it is easier for older dogs to pack on the pounds. If an older dog has osteoarthritis that makes it painful for them to walk or run, then he may exercise less, which can also contribute to muscle loss.
While obesity doesn’t specifically lower a dog’s metabolism, canine obesity is a significant problem. Genetics also affects your dog’s overall metabolic rate, as in humans. Dogs predisposed to slower metabolic rates will have a more challenging time burning off calories. This knowledge should limit the number of treats and table scraps you feed them to keep them within a good weight and healthy. Genetics also is a factor when combined with your dog’s breed. Your dog’s metabolic rate, like genetic diseases, can be passed down from your dog’s parents. Understanding your dog’s weight level is essential to know how to maintain a healthy metabolism. The best practice is to have your pet checked by a vet regularly.
A healthy body weight is critical for your dog’s health and quality of life. You can help your dog maintain a healthy metabolism with proper food, exercise, and regular vet checkups. Your vet can identify conditions that may sabotage your weight loss efforts and advise you on the best weight control regimen. They count on you for everything in their life. Make sure you are doing right by them.