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Are pet weight reduction campaigns working?

Zed the dog, a whopping 114% overweight

Zed the dog, a whopping 114% overweight

We hear about pet obesity via the media. Figures from the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association show a staggering 45% of dogs in Britain being overweight. Cat proportions sit at a weightly 40%. While 28% of rabbits in Britain and even 15% of pet birds are overfed. In contrast 66% of pet owners in Britain feel that more important issues face their pets. Pet owners’ awareness of pet obesity has improved by 30% since 2009, this awareness is not leading to action. A staggering 77% of Britain’s vets believe pet obesity to be on the rise.

Figures like a third of British dogs which never get taken for walks give a fuller glimpse into where the epidemic all stems from. While a thought towards many UK busy pet owners who compensate the limited time spent with their pets with overfeeding, something which happens far more frequently than pictured on the media.

A  massive drive launched under the heading “Pet Fit Club” is held annually by the PDSA (campaign since 2005). All to raise awareness of pet obesity in Britain. 17 pets have been selected to enter a competition where in similar style to The Biggest Loser the PDSA’s own vets oversee individualised pet weight loss programmes. PDSA research has shown that 87% of owners give their pets treats, this being despite resulting obesity able to reduce their pet’s lifespan.

Poppy the rabbit, 32% overweight

Poppy the rabbit, 32% overweight

The PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report, in conjunction with YouGov, gives further insights within the severity of overweight cases within pets. 1.3 million dogs across the UK are displaying problem behaviour and 18.5 million dogs, cats and rabbits are being fed deadly diets. This all being related to how the UK’s pets are being fed. While a high percentage of owners understand that overweight pets will have a shortened lifespan (91%) and an increased risk of ill health due to obesity (93%), and 95% believe owners have overall responsibility to learn about their pet’s dietary needs, it appears this isn’t being transferred into into positive action.

Lifelines to pet owners are available online. The PFMA‘s “Weigh in Wednesday” campaign being one excellent example. This being a virtual Weight watchers programme for pets, with tools such as a Food diary, Weight and body condition log, a Size O Meters for pet owners. There are even discussion opportunities for pet owners on social media forums such as Facebook or Twitter. Another campaign by the PFMA being the GetPetsFit campaign.

Tom the cat, 96% overweight

Tom the cat, 96% overweight

Apps such as PetSci available for smartphones add another helpful tool in keeping track of your pet’s BMI and help you to maintain your pet’s weight. Many other websites too offer various helpful insights and methods on aiding you to maintain your pet’s weight, thereby aiding them to be at the peak of health. The PDSA also offer extensive advice in helping your pet with weight issues and more, all found at http://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-health-advice

The messages coming across seem clear – rationed healthy food with plenty of exercise makes for a healthy pet.  The NHS’s has created a recent drive to assist the UK (human!) population in keeping a healthy weight. A healthier population needs less medical care. The USA has the The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) to assist and give guidance to pet owners. What seems a few various distributed voices within the UK media across quite a few veterinary associations, organisations and boards might be better applied with a grouped effort all under one umbrella to assist UK pet owners in getting the messages across in enabling better pet care and thereby better quality of life for the UK’s pets.

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