Dietary Fat For Bitches
Fat is vital for fertility. In fact, when Native American couples had trouble conceiving, the elders put them on bear fat diets!
FAT AND FERTILITY
by Jill Maner, RN
Breeders know that fat bitches are unlikely to conceive but when we put them on crash diets we guarantee temporary sterility. Here’s why.
All dog breeders want our animals to be strong, healthy and fit. To that end we read articles, advertisements, and study guaranteed analysis. We vaccinate, worm, add vitamins, minerals, assorted and sundry trace elements, herbs and anything anyone else claims to have had any success with.
Yet all of us have had picky eaters, over eaters, thyroid problems and fertility problems.
I've spent more than twenty years working in both human and animal medicine and I have come to the conclusion that we have a lot more in common with our dogs than is immediately apparent. The obvious similarities are those common to most mammals; we both bear live young, the ability to suckle that young, internal regulation of body temperature (unlike reptiles) and we are both driven by the biological imperative to reproduce. That drive is responsible for socialization, competitiveness, play, dominate vs subordinate behavior and stress responses.
In our prehistory, wolves and man were both hunter-gathers, or perhaps “opportunistic eaters” is a better description. Food was scarce and no source was overlooked. Though dogs are commonly considered meat eaters, a large part of their diets was vegetation and both groups depended on adequate food sources for survival. When supplies dropped to or below subsistence levels existing young perished or were sacrificed in favor of group survival. Pregnancies which did not abort spontaneously produced small, weak young with poor viability. Mating and new pregnancies decreased or ceased altogether.
When wolves first joined the man pack both groups benefited. Man acquired a hunter protector with great strength and intense loyalty and the dog acquired shelter, warmth, and man's weapons to aid in the kill. The survival ratio for both groups improved significantly and neither was required to spend all of it's time seeking food.
Greater numbers of offspring were born and survived. Specialization began wherein a skilled individual could spend their "leisure" time expanding certain skills and talented animals were bred and trained to perform specific functions, ultimately leading to the variety of breeds we now enjoy.
Certainly this didn't happen overnight and of course it is not a news flash to most of you. But I did say the things we have in common were not immediately apparent. Hopefully I have piqued your interest sufficiently to have you looking more closely at your dog. We share thousands of years of evolution and in fact for thousands of years have defined the development of the dog. As our circumstances improved so did his.
We have problems as a population with obesity, depression, infertility, and boredom (beginning to see the connection?) so why should it surprise us that our animals exhibit the same symptoms? And why do we want to treat the symptom instead of the cause?
O.K. you guessed it, I'm talking about the similarities between obesity and infertility in humans and dogs. And I'm asking you to really look at what we do to our animals to get them breeding fit and then wonder why they don't conceive.
Recently we had three bitches near mid-life, none ready to retire but not producing puppies either. All three dogs were due to come in heat and were also a little lazy and on the chunky side. So, we reduced their calorie intake and initially they each dropped a few pounds then stopped. We felt another reduction was in order so their intake was dropped to about 800-900 calories. Boy, did we get results then!
The bitches were pacing constantly, drinking excessively, and cropping grass like Farmer Brown's prize bull and getting fatter or at least they looked fatter. I just couldn't figure it out until one day as I watched one of them WOLF her food in seconds flat and begin pacing again the reason hit me like a ton of bricks. She was doing what both humans and animals have done for thousands of years. She was "hunting" in her run, and attempting to satisfy her hunger with water and grass. She wasn't losing weight because her metabolism had gone into starvation mode, and was hoarding fat and using her muscle to replace a calorie deficit.
No wonder the poor dog hadn't come in heat yet and worse probably wouldn't. Mother nature intends for females to have a fat reserve so young don't starve and of course the dogs looked unhappy - no one on a diet ever looks happy.
Well, they got an extra breakfast that day and I got out the books. Ask any woman, DIETS DON'T WORK! If they don't work for us why should we expect them to succeed with our dogs?
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