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 at 59 percent of dogs and 52 percent of cats worldwide are overweight. Yet in the survey, only a quarter of cat and dog owners (24 percent) describe their pet as overweight. However, when asked whether their cat or dog exhibited any of the signs of being overweight, 64 percent 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 percent of cat and dog owners said that they feel rewarded when feeding their pet and 77 percent 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 percent 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).
The survey results were announced ahead of the Royal Canin Weight Management Congress taking place in the UK on 21st and 22nd February. Cat and dog owners in Brazil, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States were questioned for the survey which aimed to illuminate the growing issue of pet obesity. Alongside the well-publicised human obesity epidemic, companion animals have similarly been getting heavier and heavier.
“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 percent do not know how much their cat or dog weighs and 22 percent say their pet has never been weighed. 72 percent 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 percent) and 82 percent 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.”
The survey was conducted online during January and February 2018. The total sample size was 5,309 cat and dog owners who were responsible for their pet’s health and well-being (Brazil 1,068; China 1,036; Russian 1,111; United Kingdom 1,023 and United States 1,071).