As in humans, obesity poses health problems for pets too.
Obesity is the single biggest health issue facing domestic animals and can be regarded as a form of abuse by some experts.
More than half (55%) of attendees at a recent veterinarian conference said that they knew of a pet that had to be euthanased because it was suffering from an obesity-related disease, or was too obese for routine surgery.
An earlier study has shown that the life of an overweight dog is shortened by at least two years (equivalent to a life expectancy shortfall in humans of about 15 years). "An overweight animal is at higher risk of co-morbidities such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer which literally take years off its life," said Dr Guy Fyvie, a South African veterinarian who attended the conference. "Furthermore the extra weight can cause arthritis and mobility problems that can be extremely painful."
The Pet Obesity Epidemic Conference, which was sponsored by Hill’s Pet Nutrition, brought together vets, animal welfare representatives and specialists in both human and animal obesity, in an endeavour to examine the causes and consequences of what was referred to as the "epidemic", and deliver strategies to get pets on track to better health.
Overfeeding a major problem
The consensus was that overfeeding is the major cause of the problem, with 95% of delegates agreeing that pet owners are unable to accurately judge their pet's optimum weight, and that owners underestimate the health problems caused by overfeeding.
The owner's weight was identified as a complicating factor; 80% of delegates admitted they were reluctant to mention pet obesity and its dangers for fear of offending owners about their own weight. There was an enthusiastic response to the suggestion that doctors and vets should work in tandem to develop a programme to combat obesity in humans and pets. "If an owner and pet go on a diet and exercise programme together, they both benefit," said Nick Blayney, President of the British Veterinary Association.
It was agreed that all pets should be weighed at their next visit to the vet, and that the owner be made aware of what the pet's ideal weight should be. The conference called upon vets to adopt an open-door policy where owners can bring their pet at any time for a free weight check.
"In South Africa we may be one step ahead of our European colleagues," said Fyvie. "There are currently over 200 veterinary clinics around the country running a weight management programme for their overweight patients. Concerned owners should simply ask their local vet for an objective assessment of their pet's condition."
For more information or a weight check speak to your vet. - (Health24, March 2008)
Information supplied by Hill’s Pet Nutrition
- (Last updated: June 2010)