What a wonderful topic for a health issue! Everybody knows or at least, thinks they know, what the term appetite means. However, even many health practitioners do not understand the deep mechanics of it and the proper way to repair it in case it malfunctions.
Appetite is an instinct driving all beings to survive through eating. There are two aspects of appetite – quantity (amount control) and quality (food preferences).
It works with an amazing preciseness. For instance, for medium size dog (about 60 lbs), just thirty to forty extra calories a day mean a gain of an additional 4-5 pounds of body mass in 4-5 months – the direct way to being overweight or obese. Thirty-five calories are in a small bite of food! Can you imagine how accurate the regulating mechanism is to navigate a pet’s body condition in a very flexible environment!
There are significant differences for animals living in the wild eating a more natural diet, compared to domesticated pets, who are fed by their owners and have no ability to adjust their food consumption based on their body’s needs. Numerous observations of wild canines and felines have shown they would search for specific types of foods that they felt they needed. Their preparation for hunting rather different depends on what food they needed today. For example, we know that wolves are carnivores, but they will sometimes gather berries on one day and hunt as a pack for large prey on another day. It’s as if they automatically know which food is better for them on any given day.
Domesticated pets don’t have any choice in what they are fed, except to show a preference for a variety of brands selected by their owners. When a choice is made, it usually does not vary, even as the pet ages or circumstances change. Often as well, the owner decides on the quantity given, regardless of appetite or other factors, such as stress, weather or competition with other pets.
In most cases, pet owners base their first choice of food brand on advertising claims, advice from other pet owners, or the guidance of veterinarians.
Though it is simpler to buy ready-made food for pets, the natural mechanism of appetite is therefore overlooked, resulting in the possibility of compromised health of the animal.
One way for an animal to use its appetite drive is to have the choice of treats. Owners are generally willing to allow their pets to choose the kinds of treats they like. Of course, treats are usually some kind of reward that has a comforting effect for pets.
The majority of pet owners “ask” their four-legged family members what they like to eat when they offer treats. The pet can show which treats they like today, and the owner listens to this opinion! Sometimes the treats are pet owner’s leftovers, but mostly they are special ready treats – the trend in pet-industry marketing.
The trend in the pet food industry’s marketing of treats is to load them with benefits other than good taste, such as teeth-cleaning ability, reduced calories and hypoallergenic qualities. VetVittles’ treats has taken the next step. In addition to a large array of main ingredients such as chicken, lamb, beef, turkey, fish, shrimp, vegetables and fruit, they also are packed with herbs and herb extracts known for their health improvement qualities. For example, treats labeled as having an anti-allergy formula help reduce the pet’s reaction to allergens from such sources as food or the environment.
Another aspect of appetite is the ways to change it by certain external factors. One of them is the supplements which might increase or reduce eating drive. Thus, some herbs, which can be eaten by canines in wildness, can increase poor appetite – dandelion, marihuana, eleutherococcus, juniper berry etc. Others, such as ginseng, mirabilis multiflora, ephedra sinica, st. John’s worth, passiflora and so on can reduce appetite. Ephedrines, cannabis, amphetamine-like components of these remedies have proven effect on the level of serotonin, which is the main mediator in a brain’s locus responsible for appetite regulation. Recently VetVittles presented multi component herbal supplements, which can help to increase or suppress appetite of pets when it needed to be adjusted.
A topic like appetite is so important and so wide that it has to be the subject of a long talk with many aspects to it. To be continued if the topic will generate reader’s responses, interest and questions. Probably, next time when we will come back to this topic we will provide more recommendations on broken appetite and adjustment of it regard to certain situations.
Gurman, PhD, Dr.Sci. (physiology of digestion)