It is incredible how much we know about calorie expense in humans during training/exercise. Charts are open that list countless types of training and the number of burned calories at several levels of intensity. Exercise machines equipped with monitors can also various calorie costs. So how numerous calories do animals burn during training/exercise?
What We Know and Don’t Know About Pet Calories
Unexpectedly, we know very little about training/exercise and calorie expenditure on pets. A well-known belief among veterinarians and pet health practitioners is the 70/30 % Rule. It is thought that pets enrolled in weight-loss programs that include exercise spend 70% of their calories due to calorie restriction and 30% due to calorie loss during training/exercise. Even though this sounds great, there is no evidence to support it.
Even though there is comprehensive veterinary exercise physiology research in horses, there is precious little of the same study in cats and dogs. So what do we know about training/exercise in cats and dogs? Let’s start with cats. The result is zip, zero, cero, and zilch. We have no idea how numerous calories a cat burns when jumping at a feather toy for x number of minutes or following a laser light until the cat starts panting.
We know a little more in dogs. One study recommends that a dog walking at a pace of 3.7 -4 miles an hour (~15-minute miles) will burn 0.8 calories per pound per mile. This means a 20-pound dog will only burn about 65 calories during a one hour walk. This calorie loss is quickly canceled by the treats the dog receives when it gets home to reward its athletic efforts. Besides, it is doubtful that most owners can maintain a 15-minute mile pace, so the average 1-hour walk for a dog would burn several calories. How many? Repeatedly we don’t know as there are no studies at slower paces.
A more recent study estimated that a 22-pound dog trotting on a treadmill submerged in nearly 10 inches of water would burn about 65 calories in 30 minutes if maintaining a pace of 6.8 miles per hour. This pace is only 2 miles an hour less than the speed of a competitive marathoner! Could your overweight pet (dog or cat) maintain this pace for 30 minutes? And it would still mean a paltry 65 calorie burn.
I just finished assisting with the American Animal Hospital Association task force to establish the Cat and Dog Weight Management guidelines. One of the main concerns of our document’s reviewers was that we didn’t elaborate on exercise expenditure. Although all 8 of us on the panel agreed that training is vital in weight management, we could not generate any other credible studies to address their desired content. We could only infer from human studies, which unluckily is not proof. We recommended more research in this area.
What Is The Answer?
This discussion is not to control exercise. It is only meant to point out my often repeated phrase that “we tend to underestimate calories and overestimate exercise.” The expenditure of 64 calories for a 20-pound dog is not insignificant, but it is not monumental and quickly canceled by feeding practices.
Exercise/Training is very healthy. It also creates a more powerful bond between owners and their dogs. The key is not to exceed the value of training, especially for your pet. It is not going to contribute to 30% of weight loss, but it is not lost effort as long as you are exercising at a pace that makes you sweat and the dog pant it is promoting a healthier lifestyle for both.
How do you exercise/training with your pets? Let us know in the comments.