New survey weighs up potential reasons behind the pet obesity crisis
Owners hold key to healthy pet weight by ignoring “begging” and monitoring food quantity
- Over half of cat and dog owners always or often give their pet food if they beg for it (54%)
- Almost a quarter (22%) of cat and dog owners sometimes overfeed their pet to keep them happy
- Only 20% always measure how much food they are giving them
- 87% always or often give their pet roughly what they think it needs at each serving
There is remarkably little understanding of how much food cats and dogs need or what they should or should not eat and most owners have no idea whether their pet is overweight or not. Estimates suggest that as many as 59% of dogs and 52% of cats worldwide are overweight.
Yet in the survey, only a quarter of cat and dog owners (24%) describe their pet as overweight. However, when asked whether their cat or dog exhibited any of the signs of being overweight, 64% indicated that their pet currently has at least one sign of being overweight (such as not being able to feel their pet’s ribs or having had to loosen their collar).
The strong emotional bond between owners and their pets may be part of the issue. Many owners express affection for their pet through feeding which can easily lead to the pet consuming more calories than it needs. In the survey 59% of cat and dog owners said that they feel rewarded when feeding their pet and 77% said their animal gets excited when they feed it.
Unfortunately, many owners are not fully aware of the consequences of over-feeding their pet. 61% of survey respondents were unaware that overweight pets may be susceptible to diabetes and orthopaedic disease and a similar lack of awareness was associated with reduced quality of life (53 percent), the risk of heart disease (53 percent) and a shorter lifespan (51 percent).
“Like humans, pets need to be at a healthy weight,” said Alex German, Professor of Small Animal Medicine at the University of Liverpool. UK. “This is a very complex issue though and one that requires understanding and commitment from both pet owners and vets”.
Many people monitor their own weight regularly, yet 40% do not know how much their cat or dog weighs and 22% say their pet has never been weighed. 72% of respondents to the survey said their vet had spoken to them about the emotional and health benefits of diet and exercise for their pet. But two-thirds of cat and dog owners would like their vet to more actively advise them on their pet’s weight (67%) and 82% would like to be given healthy weight guidelines for their pet and advice on keeping them fit and healthy.
“Our survey shows that pet owners are open to receiving more guidance about how to keep their cats and dogs fit and healthy,” commented Sandra McCune, Scientific Leader, Human-Animal Interaction at Mars Petcare who will be one of the speakers at the Weight Management Congress later this month. “The focus of our work at Waltham/Mars Petcare is increasingly on finding ways to support owners in knowing how to keep their pets healthy as well as happy.”