Pet obesity becoming a global issue

Roughly one-third of dog owners visit the drive-through or take out window with their dog(s), and four-fifths of them order something specifically for the dog. That translates to over one billion fast food trips annually when something is being ordered for the dog.  

So states a study published April 8 by Relevation Research, a market research firm.

But the U.S. is not alone in such “dog treats.” In the U.K., the Peoples Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), the U.K.’s leading veterinary charity, published a report in March confirming the same behavior.

Indeed, 5.5 million U.K. pets get treats as part of their daily diets, and those treats include, you guessed it, fast food such as hamburgers and French fries.

The PDSA report also notes that 80% of the U.K. veterinary community believes there will be more overweight pets than healthy pets in five years, compared with 42% of U.K. pet owners. 

Alas, in the U.S., it’s already happened.

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) published its eighth annual National Pet Obesity Prevalent Survey last month, and found that 54% of U.S. cats and dogs were overweight, some with serious consequences. 

“We’re seeing an increasing number of obese pets and the diseases that accompany excess fat,” reports Julie Churchill, DVM, PhD, Associate Clinical Professor and veterinary nutritionist at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.

“Type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, and many forms of cancer are associated with obesity in animals. It is critical pet owners understand an overweight dog or cat is not a healthy pet.”

But seeing the issue depends on where you’re standing.

“The ‘fat pet gap’ continues to challenge pet owners and veterinarians,” said Ernie Ward, DVM, founder of APOP, and author of Chow Hounds: Why Our Dogs are Getting Fatter—A Vet’s Plan to Save Their Lives (Health Communications, Inc. 2010).

“Pet owners think their obese dog or cat is a normal weight, making confronting obesity difficult. No one wants to think their pet is overweight, and overcoming denial is our first battle.”

But Ward believes it is possible to get the message across to clients if the tenor of the message changes.

"Excess fat causes damaging inflammation, and chronic inflammation is one of our patient's greatest health threats," Ward told NEWStat. "It causes or contributes to innumerable diseases.

“[Veterinarians can] change the message from ‘fat’ and ‘obese’ to ‘disease’ and ‘inflammation.’ Start by comparing the pet's last weight with the current weight. If it's increased, that's an opportunity to intervene.

“Next, calculate daily calories and volume or weight of food. Be sure to ‘prescribe’ a daily treat allowance. I include a ‘cheat treat’ with instructions on how to adjust feeding if the owner feels compelled to give an extra reward.

“Finally, teach the owner how to weigh their pet at home and schedule a one to three month weight re-check."


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