Nearly Half of Pets Are Overweight but Few Receive Treatment
Pet obesity is one of the most common medical problems in cats and dogs — more than 40% may be affected globally.
A pet’s enjoyment of life involves running, jumping and climbing. Indeed, an overweight body condition can limit a pet’s speed, agility and energy for play — resulting in poor quality of life.
We also know dogs and cats who experience obesity are at greater risk of long-term issues such as diabetes, lower urinary tract diseases and arthritis. The latest research indicates that dogs in overweight condition have a shorter average lifespan (up to 2.5 years) than dogs that are a healthy weight.
Yet, getting a pet to reach their target weight is likely a lengthy process — especially because weight loss isn’t a linear process. Also, many pets will experience a progressive decrease in their rate of weight loss as their bodies tend to protect and store fat. Therefore, the longer the period of weight loss, the harder it becomes for the pet to lose weight.
This issue is mirrored in weight loss programs. Research by the Royal Canin Weight Management Clinic at the University of Liverpool shows high compliance in the first months: over 80% follow their assigned program. However, commitment declines after two to three months, resulting in only around half of pets reaching their target weight.
Start of life: A critical phase to prevent weight issues
According to a Banfield report, pet obesity has increased by 169% for cats and 158% for dogs over the last 10 years. It also shows that 37% of dogs under 18 months are overweight. The statistics indicate that more challenges arise in pet health when obesity occurs earlier, since pets are spending most of their lifespans with excess body weight.
“We are dealing with a disease that is already common but increasing further in prevalence. It is a lifelong problem, often starting early in life,” said Alex German, Royal Canin Professor of Small Animal Medicine at the University of Liverpool. “That is why the problem needs to be managed strategically with a focus on prevention, targeting puppies and kittens.”
Veterinarians are crucial for bridging the knowledge gap
Obese pets may not show their discomfort clearly, which is why it is desirable for pet owners, supported by veterinary professionals, to understand their pet’s behavior and needs.
Between 44% and 72% of pet owners underestimate the weight status of their pet. Also, very few veterinarians record obesity and overweight issues. Another study by the Liverpool Weight Management Clinic shows that terms associated with obesity and overweight only appeared in 1.4% of vet records, compared with the estimated prevalence of 50 to 60% in the UK. This indicates that the proportion of pets treated for obesity or overweight issues is likely to be small.
At Mars and Royal Canin, we believe vets are a key factor to promote preventive health. It is important to establish early healthy weight management habits for our pets, and it can be as simple as starting a conversation at a clinic!
“Too many pet owners are unaware if their pet is overweight, and as a result their pet’s health and quality of life can be severely reduced. As pet professionals, we believe that we have a responsibility to help bridge this gap by ensuring that pet owners have the knowledge to help their pet thrive,” said John Flanagan, Discover Program Manager at Royal Canin. “To us at Royal Canin, this means sharing knowledge with pet owners through communication campaigns and offering nutritional solutions adapted to each pet’s specific needs, all with the help of our partners.”
Simple recommendations to put your pet’s health first
In order to have a healthy, happy pet that will enjoy a long life, it is also important to make nutritional and lifestyle changes by:
- Providing a carefully selected diet.
- Avoiding overfeeding and minimizing extra foods by monitoring food portions.
- Weighing our pets regularly with an electronic scale.
- Exercising pets regularly — with regard to the amount and type of exercise depending on various factors, i.e., breed, size, age and health status.
Weight management at Royal Canin
At Royal Canin, weight management has been our focus for years. We believe a healthy weight begins with healthy habits, which should begin early in life and continue throughout the pet’s life.
Royal Canin has a bold ambition to help reduce the prevalence of pet obesity in every cat by 2025. We will do this by raising awareness on the issue and promoting healthy habits through campaigns, tools and nutritional solutions, all based on science and observation. We also work with our vets and other institutions, such as the University of Liverpool, to gain and share knowledge.