black and white dog playing outdoors


Dogs prefer high-fat diets

Research also shows some dogs will overeat if given excess food, readily consuming more than twice as many calories as required.

October 2012 - The international peer-reviewed journal Behavioral Ecology published online a piece of exciting collaborative research from the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, the University of Sydney (Australia) and the Institute of Natural Sciences at Massey University (New Zealand).

The research, which was conducted at Waltham, involved adult dogs representing five diverse breeds: the Papillon, miniature schnauzer, cocker spaniel, Labrador retriever and St. Bernard. In a series of dietary studies the dogs were offered combinations of wet or dry foods with varying levels of protein, fat and carbohydrate. The dietary nutrient balance selected by the different breeds was then assessed and compared.

The results have shed new light on the natural feeding behaviour of dogs by demonstrating that they will seek a daily dietary intake that is high in fat. Specifically, dogs will seek a macronutrient profile equating to approximately 63% of their daily calorie intake from fat, 30% from protein and 7% from carbohydrate.

The research also showed that some dogs will overeat if given excess food, readily consuming more than twice as many calories as required.

“The finding that domestic dogs will naturally seek a dietary intake that is high in fat and that they will readily overeat if given the opportunity probably reflects the feeding behaviour of their wild ancestors” commented lead study author and WALTHAM scientist Dr Adrian Hewson-Hughes. “In the wild, dogs and wolves often have irregular access to food and competition is fierce – leading them to try and maximise their calorie intake whenever possible.”

“However, domestic dogs today have regular access to food and many lead relatively inactive lifestyles compared with their wild ancestors,” added Dr Hewson-Hughes. “By demonstrating that dogs will overeat when offered excess food, this research also reinforces the importance of responsible feeding measures, such as portion control, for helping ensure dogs maintain a healthy body weight.”

Waltham is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of companion animals. This research forms part of a wider programme of ongoing collaborative research into the effect of food and nutrition on health and body weight in both cats and dogs.