Puppies And Thermodynamics

      74 Comments on Puppies And Thermodynamics

Misha and Coco, our ferocious guard dogs, were spayed last week.  The vet told Chareva the biggest concern after the operation is that they’ll tear or chew on their stitches.  They’re still puppies and still like rough-and-tumble play, so we’ve had to keep them apart while they’re healing.  They take turns going outside – on a leash, so as to avoid any rabbit-chasing incidents.  They also have to wear big cones around their heads, because they did indeed attempt to lick and chew their stitches.  I call them the Cone Heads and keep thinking if I could get them to sit very still on the front porch, I might pick up satellite TV.

That’s Cone-Head Misha in the pictures below.

They came home in a stupor from the anesthesia.  Misha was able to walk slowly into the house, but Coco had no interest in leaving the van.  I’ve regained most of the range of motion in my knee, but it’s still weak from the surgery and still goes wobbly if I try to carry anything heavy.  So Chareva (who is stronger than she looks) lifted Coco from the van and carried her up the patio stairs to the sun room behind the house.

Afterwards she commented that it wasn’t easy hauling a 70-pound limp dog up those stairs.

“Excuse me … did you say 70 pounds?”

“Yes.  The vet weighed them before the operation.”

Well, that would make sense.  Weight determines how much anesthesia to use.

“How much does Misha weigh?”

“Fifty-two pounds.”

Wow.  I knew Coco was bigger.  They look to be the same height, but Coco has thicker muscles.  Pet them both, and you can feel the difference right away.  But 18 pounds heavier?  That’s quite a disparity.

That’s Coco, minus her cone, with Sara in the picture below.

As I thought about it, I realized my Rottweilers have, according the calories-in/calories-out crowd, managed to defy the laws of physics.  If Coco weighs significantly more, then by gosh, she must consume significantly more calories, right?  But she doesn’t.  When Chareva feeds them the organ-meat mix she buys from a local slaughterhouse, they both get a full pound of the stuff.  If she feeds them mackerel and eggs, they both get one can of mackerel and one egg.  Sometimes dinner is a raw chicken thigh and leg – again, the same meal for both of them.  And no, Coco doesn’t steal Misha’s food.

They were little puppies when we got them.  Coco was slightly larger, but we’re talking about perhaps a couple of pounds at that time, as you can see from the picture below.

They’ve eaten exactly the same meals ever since, so according to Jillian Michaels and the other experts in thermodynamics, they should be at almost exactly the same weight.  And yet Coco has 35% more body mass.  To put that in perspective, if I’m Misha at 190 pounds, my brother Coco would weigh 256 pounds.

I suppose the physics experts would insist that Misha must spend a lot more time on the treadmill or engaging in some other form of calorie-burning exercise, but I can promise you that’s not the case.  When we were talking about the difference in their sizes, Sara chimed in to suggest that Coco has more muscle because she’s more aggressive and more active.  That’s true; Coco is the feistier of the two.  If there’s a noise outside the sun room, she’s the first one bolting out the door.  She likes to run and jump and roughhouse more than Misha, who’s more of the sweet-personality “rub my belly” type.

But as I explained to Sara, if they’re eating the same meals and Coco is more active, then Coco should weigh less if the eat-less/move-more crowd is correct.  But to repeat:  she has 35% more body mass.

Coco is heavier and more muscular because the genetic program in charge of her growth has determined that she’ll be bigger and more muscular.  That program is executed by hormones.  That isn’t to say calories aren’t involved.  She of course requires a calorie surplus to grow, and if we starved her, she’d certainly be smaller.  (She’d also be one cranky and miserable dog.)

But Misha is enjoying the same surplus of calories without becoming as heavy.  Her genetic program has determined that she’ll be smaller, so somehow she’s managing to burn up the extra calories.  Maybe she produces more body heat.  Whatever the explanation, no laws of physics are being harmed in the process.

As Gary Taubes has pointed out, ranchers breed some cattle to be bigger and fatter, and it works.  They don’t become bigger and fatter because they eat too much and move too little.  By the same token, the leaner cattle bred to produce milk instead of well-marbled steaks aren’t leaner because they restrict their calories and spend more time jogging around the barnyard.  The genes rule.  For some reason, people who work with animals grasp this concept while people who work with humans often don’t.

The breeder who sold us the dogs told us, in fact, that Misha would be smaller.  She knew better than to say, “Unless you feed them the same number of calories.  Then they’ll end up the same size, because that’s the law of physics, you know.”

Only a diet expert would think like that.

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74 thoughts on “Puppies And Thermodynamics

  1. Marilyn

    This morning, I talked on the phone with a woman who will be 101 in a month. She talks and writes like a 50-year-old. She was waiting to go out to lunch with friends when I called. She’s always been tiny, and wore her wedding dress on their 50th anniversary. Lifetime calorie restriction? Heqq no! Quite to the contrary. Lifetime low fat? Nope. Lifetime low carb? Nope again. Careful avoidance of sugar and flour? Oh, heavens, no. Favorable genes?. . . Ya think?

    I think anyone who lives to be 101 had good genes to start with and didn’t overwhelm them with a bad diet or other bad habits. We’ve had several relatives make into their 90s in the family (one of my great-grandfathers lived to be 101), so I hope I’ve got the genetic aspect covered.

    Reply
  2. LawrenceM

    We have a chocolate lab called Samba who was always a little chubby. Cute but chubby. After we saw Fat Head and read Wheat Belly and changed our way of eating, my wife and I lost weight and so did Samba! She’s slimmed down and is in great shape. Going LCHF has been great for the whole family.

    Also have you seen the show Lorraine Kelly’s Big Fat Challenge (http://www.hulu.com/lorraine-kellys-big-fat-challenge)? I just found it on Hulu. The nutritionist on the show told the family that potatoes were okay, it’s the cheese and butter they needed to avoid. 🙁

    Head. Bang. On. Desk.

    Reply
  3. Alyssa

    I noticed the same thing with my cats. We brought them all home (from the same litter) at 6 weeks old, all are females, and we have been feeding them all the exact amount of food at meals for the past 6 years. We even watch them eat so no one is pushed out of their bowl. They were all around the same size when we got them, but now we have one who is 9lbs, very tall, long, lean, and muscular, one who is 9lbs, medium sized frame, and fat, and one who is 7lbs, tiny, and very thin. The small thin one actually eats more than the other two since we feed her snacks during the day because she is always screaming at us when we eat or open the fridge. Our vet thought we weren’t feeding her enough and I had to laugh. That small cat gets more than enough but doesn’t store any of it as fat.

    I hope the thin doesn’t believe she’s thin because of her superior discipline. If she does, please start calling her Meme Roth.

    Reply
  4. Connie

    As someone with a lot of overweight, diabetic relatives, What you’re saying here is kind of depressing, logical. but depressing.
    I think that is a big reason why some people are so adamant about calories in calories out. They don’t want to think that they might not have any control over what they weigh or fast they lose weight.

    Another theory, slightly more logical than CICO, is that Misha is powered by Time-Lord technology and therefore bigger on the inside. (Doctor who anyone? no? maybe I should leave the jokes to the professionals)

    Well, it doesn’t have to be depressing. The message here is that hormones rule. We can change the hormonal mix by changing our diets. It won’t make someone like me all cut with the veins popping out, but it’s sure made it easier to lose weight and keep it off.

    Reply
  5. LawrenceM

    We have a chocolate lab called Samba who was always a little chubby. Cute but chubby. After we saw Fat Head and read Wheat Belly and changed our way of eating, my wife and I lost weight and so did Samba! She’s slimmed down and is in great shape. Going LCHF has been great for the whole family.

    Also have you seen the show Lorraine Kelly’s Big Fat Challenge (http://www.hulu.com/lorraine-kellys-big-fat-challenge)? I just found it on Hulu. The nutritionist on the show told the family that potatoes were okay, it’s the cheese and butter they needed to avoid. 🙁

    Head. Bang. On. Desk.

    Reply
  6. Alyssa

    I noticed the same thing with my cats. We brought them all home (from the same litter) at 6 weeks old, all are females, and we have been feeding them all the exact amount of food at meals for the past 6 years. We even watch them eat so no one is pushed out of their bowl. They were all around the same size when we got them, but now we have one who is 9lbs, very tall, long, lean, and muscular, one who is 9lbs, medium sized frame, and fat, and one who is 7lbs, tiny, and very thin. The small thin one actually eats more than the other two since we feed her snacks during the day because she is always screaming at us when we eat or open the fridge. Our vet thought we weren’t feeding her enough and I had to laugh. That small cat gets more than enough but doesn’t store any of it as fat.

    I hope the thin doesn’t believe she’s thin because of her superior discipline. If she does, please start calling her Meme Roth.

    Reply
  7. John

    Well, Tom, I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but weight depends on a whole host of factors- the amount of caloires we eat, the macronutrient breakdown, the micronutrient breakdown, how much we move, the temperature of our envirionment, our genetics, the number of hours we sleep, the quality of our sleep, our stress level, our gut flora, muscle vs. fat, brown adipose tissue, amount of exercise, quality of exercise, and probably a whole host of other factors that we don’t even know about yet…

    Reply
  8. John

    Well, Tom, I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but weight depends on a whole host of factors- the amount of caloires we eat, the macronutrient breakdown, the micronutrient breakdown, how much we move, the temperature of our envirionment, our genetics, the number of hours we sleep, the quality of our sleep, our stress level, our gut flora, muscle vs. fat, brown adipose tissue, amount of exercise, quality of exercise, and probably a whole host of other factors that we don’t even know about yet…

    Reply
  9. Cathy

    The article and comments remind me of a conversation I had 8 months ago when I was just embarking on my low carb weight loss program. While sitting at lunch eating my meat and salad, a rail thin lady shared with me her struggle to gain weight and her joy that she had just managed to gain 5 pounds. She then proceeded to advise me that since I like numbers (I was the team’s statistician) it should be easy for me to lose weight. It was just a matter of less calories in than calories out. I then asked her what one should do when the math says you have had enough for the day but it is only 6 pm and you are still so hungry it hurts! She had no answer, but I don’t think she really believed that such a thing could ever happen. Life long thin people should never give weight loss advice to life long fat people! By the way, I lost 40 pounds without ever being hungry by eating low carb. And so far I have kept it off by eating moderately low carb.

    My thoughts exactly. With the exception of researchers like Dr. Jeff Volek, who has conducted clinical studies on weight loss, I’m not interested in hearing weight-loss advice from people who have never had to lose weight.

    Reply
  10. Cathy

    The article and comments remind me of a conversation I had 8 months ago when I was just embarking on my low carb weight loss program. While sitting at lunch eating my meat and salad, a rail thin lady shared with me her struggle to gain weight and her joy that she had just managed to gain 5 pounds. She then proceeded to advise me that since I like numbers (I was the team’s statistician) it should be easy for me to lose weight. It was just a matter of less calories in than calories out. I then asked her what one should do when the math says you have had enough for the day but it is only 6 pm and you are still so hungry it hurts! She had no answer, but I don’t think she really believed that such a thing could ever happen. Life long thin people should never give weight loss advice to life long fat people! By the way, I lost 40 pounds without ever being hungry by eating low carb. And so far I have kept it off by eating moderately low carb.

    My thoughts exactly. With the exception of researchers like Dr. Jeff Volek, who has conducted clinical studies on weight loss, I’m not interested in hearing weight-loss advice from people who have never had to lose weight.

    Reply
  11. Elenor

    Connie: “bigger on the inside.”

    Thankfully I had just swallowed my mouthful of water, or I’d’ve damaged my monitor! Atta girl! And: come along, Pond!

    SOME of us get it!

    Reply
  12. Elenor

    Connie: “bigger on the inside.”

    Thankfully I had just swallowed my mouthful of water, or I’d’ve damaged my monitor! Atta girl! And: come along, Pond!

    SOME of us get it!

    Reply
  13. Osama Magdi Elmageid

    Indeed, the people who boast about thermodynamics do not understand it themselves. Gary Taubes’ book is excellent at describing that calories in and out are dependent upon each other. One can never neglect the hormonal factor in calorie management. If only more people knew this, they’d have no idea how much easier their life would be.

    The people telling Gary Taubes his hypothesis would defy the laws of physics seem to forget that he has a degree in physics from Harvard and wrote his first two books on physics. I think he probably considered the laws of thermodynamics when he wrote about weight loss.

    Reply
  14. Osama Magdi Elmageid

    Indeed, the people who boast about thermodynamics do not understand it themselves. Gary Taubes’ book is excellent at describing that calories in and out are dependent upon each other. One can never neglect the hormonal factor in calorie management. If only more people knew this, they’d have no idea how much easier their life would be.

    The people telling Gary Taubes his hypothesis would defy the laws of physics seem to forget that he has a degree in physics from Harvard and wrote his first two books on physics. I think he probably considered the laws of thermodynamics when he wrote about weight loss.

    Reply
  15. cTo

    Yay puppy update! 😀 *AND* paired with a very interesting observational lesson as well 🙂 Well done!

    Reply
  16. Janelle

    I hope Misha and Coco are freed from their Cones of Shame soon. They’re probably thinking this is a life sentence. (I like the sound of their diet.)

    They’ll be free from the cones in a few more days.

    Reply
  17. Janelle

    I hope Misha and Coco are freed from their Cones of Shame soon. They’re probably thinking this is a life sentence. (I like the sound of their diet.)

    They’ll be free from the cones in a few more days.

    Reply
  18. Tony Mach

    I think the problem is Idealism: That humans think that “the mind” has some special powers over matter. As cognition isn’t usually ascribed to animals (or not nearly in the same extent) people don’t assume their idealistic fallacies when thinking about animals.

    Reply
  19. Tony Mach

    I think the problem is Idealism: That humans think that “the mind” has some special powers over matter. As cognition isn’t usually ascribed to animals (or not nearly in the same extent) people don’t assume their idealistic fallacies when thinking about animals.

    Reply
  20. Catchling

    In a sense, “calories in/out” is true by denition, but unhelpful on its lonesome. Variation in metabolism, which is mostly determined by DNA, means that both eating and excercise can result in different calorie changes. The same “amount” of exercise for two creatures, as measured by minutes, does not necessarily translate into the same amount of calories burned, and likewise with food-by-volume, as pointed out earlier.

    Have you ever tried to imitate the movement of a human baby on its back? It gets exhausting after the first few minutes, while the baby just keeps wiggling those arms and legs.

    Reply
  21. Catchling

    In a sense, “calories in/out” is true by denition, but unhelpful on its lonesome. Variation in metabolism, which is mostly determined by DNA, means that both eating and excercise can result in different calorie changes. The same “amount” of exercise for two creatures, as measured by minutes, does not necessarily translate into the same amount of calories burned, and likewise with food-by-volume, as pointed out earlier.

    Have you ever tried to imitate the movement of a human baby on its back? It gets exhausting after the first few minutes, while the baby just keeps wiggling those arms and legs.

    Reply

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