The problem of pet obesity is one of the fastest growing pet welfare issues in Britain today. Pet nutritionists estimate that almost 60% of UK dogs are overweight.
Obesity in dogs is classed as a disease in its own right, but also has a significant effect on increasing the risk of other diseases including joint disorders, skin conditions as well as impairing heart and respiratory function.
Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and Cocker Spaniels take first, second and third in the list of breeds at highest risk of obesity, followed by Dachshund, Dalmatian, Rottweiler and Shetland Sheepdog.
Vets at the 2016 Companion Animal Nutrition Conference at Moulton College heard that although a genetic link predisposed some breeds to obesity, misinterpretation of an animal’s needs probably has the larger influence.
Dog owners felt that restricting their pet’s food intake made their animal companion unhappy
Surveys found that many dog owners felt that restricting their pet’s food intake made their animal companion unhappy. Owners often misinterpreted their pet’s behaviour as demanding food, when all their dog wanted was petting and reassurance from their human companion.
Many dog owners were likely to disagree with a vet’s assessment of an animal as overweight, and insist on feeding fattening treats even after discussing the need to reduce their dog’s calorie intake.
Don’t underestimate the energy content of the biscuit-based feed
Pet keepers who feed their dogs dried food often worried that the recommended serving was too little to satisfy their dog, and greatly underestimated the energy content of the biscuit-based feed.
The growing trend of feeding dogs raw or home prepared food risks further overfeeding as there are no recommendations for how much a dog needs to eat to stay healthy and satisfied.
The big difference between well-fed pet dogs and their wild ancestors is the easy availability of energy-rich food that they don’t have to hunt, chase down and laboriously tear up and eat.
Exercise is essential
Pet owners can help their dogs stay healthy by gradually improving mealtime interest and interaction – maybe feeding less but more often, and following a meal with a little attention and light activity. Exercise is essential, but suddenly moving a relatively inactive dog to a regime of physical exertion might bring on other muscle, joint and skeletal problems.
Owners rarely consult their vet solely in relation to an animal’s weight. This means that vets have to be ready to offer compelling advice on animal weight management when pet owners attend for anything from routine vaccination, to diagnostic testing to parasite assessment, treatment and prevention.
For the veterinary practitioner, understanding the relationship between a particular pet owner and their pet is the key to persuading an owner to act on expert advice and maintain their pet at its ideal weight.