Pet Owners Unwittingly Feeding a Potential Pet Obesity Epidemic

Research[1] reveals only 17% of pet owners believe that their pet is overweight, yet 77% of vets have said that pet obesity is increasing with 50% of dogs, 43% of cats and 31% of small animals they treat being obese[2].

Only 47% of owners check their pet’s weight at the vets and almost a third (30%) of pet owners admit to either never checking their pet’s weight at all or guessing, revealed the research by UK Pet Food, in partnership with Agria Pet Insurance.

38% of pet owners admit to giving their pets treats just because they look cute, and 22% to keep them quiet or occupied.

41% of owners agreed that table scraps were a possible cause of obesity, especially likely because human scraps can be higher in fat, salt, sugar and calories than pet foods. For example, one chunk of cheese for a cat is equivalent to nine chunks of cheese for a human.

The findings present a concerning picture because obesity in animals brings serious welfare issues, such as:

  • Reduced quality and length of life
  • Increased joint problems and arthritis
  • Increased respiratory problems and heart disease
  • Increased diabetes and some cancers

Alongside these life-changing risks, obesity risk again increases with neutering, due to a larger appetite and less activity, and on your furry friend reaching middle-age.

Agria’s partner, UK Pet Food, is a dedicated industry body for pet food, promoting best practice and providing free information on pet food and feeding. Best practice is to feed a ‘complete’ commercial pet food. The term complete on the pet food label means that the diet has been carefully formulated to provide all the nutrients a pet needs in the right proportions. This takes the guesswork out of feeding. All pet food packets include a feeding guideline to guide on how much to feed. Pet owners should start with the recommended amount based on your pet’s ideal weight. If in doubt, speak to your vet for advice.

Robin Hargreaves, Senior Veterinary Consultant for Agria Pet Insurance, comments: “As well as being a health risk in its own right, pet obesity also makes every single other health condition worse, from skin conditions to heart disease and arthritis. Furthermore, there are the increased risks with any surgery that might be required on an animal that is obese. So many later-life problems can be either eliminated or mitigated by avoiding obesity, so vets always urge owners to have their pets weighed regularly to keep on top of their weight before it becomes an issue.”

Vicki Wentworth, Managing Director at Agria Pet Insurance, added: “Animal welfare is a top priority for Agria and we are committed to highlighting what owners can do to give their pets the best possible lives. We must address the uncomfortable topic of obesity, a major animal welfare issue and a big problem with the UK’s pets.”

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