What is metabolism?
Metabolism is the name given to the process in which the body, both in humans and canines, converts our intake of foods and fluids into energy. This energy then allows the body to perform all the necessary functions to sustain life.
Even at rest, we are continuously using energy for basic body functions. Such as; breathing, circulating blood and growing or repairing skin cells, to name a few.
We often hear that "low metabolism" is to blame for weight gain. However, unless suffering from a diagnosed medical problem, it is not likely to be the culprit. The speed at which an individual's metabolism operates is based on several factors;
Basal Metabolism Rate - Every living creature requires a minimum number of calories to keep the body functioning. This generally low moving number will take into consideration the size of the body, gender and age.
Thermogenesis - The body functionality that processes food. The calories needed for this do not typically fluctuate.
Physical Activity & Exercise - All physical exertion we place on the body. This variable can have a significant impact on a body's metabolism.
Metabolism is a natural process. There are many hidden functionalities occurring within the body that contribute to this. The basic rule of thumb is that if an individual consumes more calories than they burn they will gain weight. If they burn more calories than they consume they will lose it.
Dog owners are the food and physical activity regulators for their dogs. They should ensure a balanced diet and exercise routine is in place.
Does a Greyhound have a high metabolism?
An individual's metabolism, or metabolic rate, is determined by a number of factors and a dog's is not different. The unique physical and psychological characteristics that are associated with a greyhound are what leads this breed to have a higher metabolism than the average dog.
Anyone familiar with greyhounds will know what loving big hearts they have. This is not just a personality characteristic. They do have much larger hearts than other dog breeds of their size. This enables them to pump blood and oxygen around the body and aid their impressive acceleration speed. 45mph in 3 strides!
Greyhounds do have a lower resting heart rate. However, that big heart needs more energy to keep it going and more calories to produce the energy.
Greyhounds have more muscle mass than the average dog, especially when they are still racing. Muscle mass burns more calories than body fat, even when at rest. Due to the very athletic physique of the greyhound, they burn more calories while sleeping than most other breeds.
Ex-racers will lose a little muscle mass when they retire, this is due to a reduced training schedule. Also, just because they are getting older. With a healthy exercise routine, they will maintain most of their muscle tissue. My greyhound, Tipps, still has clearly defined muscles at the mature age of 10 years.
The greyhound has a much lower body fat percentage than most dogs. This is typically 17%, compared to 35% in other breeds. They also have extremely thin fur coats. This makes these lean machines more susceptible to the cold and will burn more energy trying to keep warm.
Just as important to note, in warmer environments, they overheat easily. Again they use more energy sweating and panting in an effort to cool down.
Greyhounds are a sensitive breed and can become worried or stressed in certain situations. This increases their levels of cortisol, known commonly as the fight or flight hormone. Cortisol helps burn fat at a steady level when it's working in tandem with other chemicals in their bodies.
However, when there is too much cortisol being produced the body, in anticipation of needing to fight or flee, instinctively produces more energy. This will, in turn, burn calories quicker.
When retired greyhounds are rehomed it's often their first time away from the noisy, busy environment they grew up in. It's usually their first time alone, which can be very distressing and will cause higher levels of cortisol in the body.
These emotions will hopefully settle down once an adopted greyhound have become familiar with their new surroundings and adjusted to a routine that includes extended periods of time alone. It is worth noting that separation anxiety is a common condition amongst greyhounds and owners should be aware of the symptoms.
Greyhounds are members of the sighthound family. These breeds are well known for their prey drive and high-speed pursuits. Their keen eyesight can identify small movement over vast distances and they will become extremely excited and animated as their instinctive desire to hunt kicks in. Their adrenalin levels increase rapidly, releasing fats and sugar to fuel the anticipated chase. It can often take a while for the adrenalin to pass and for a greyhound to calm back down, all the while depleting energy levels.
With big hearts and a sensitive soul, a greyhound's metabolism could be higher than that of the average dog but it's not an undisputed fact. It most cases, it will depend more on their diet and exercise than their genetics.