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07th May 2020

Pet Obesity. The Thing Is, We Need To Talk...

by John Burns BVMS MRCVS

We need a new approach based on prevention rather than treatment.  As with most health issues this is surely the best route.

At one London Vet Show I attended, there was a lecture entitled ‘Pet Obesity, are we (the vet practice) wasting our time?’ The speaker was doctor Alex German, Reader in Small Animal Medicine at Liverpool Veterinary School. As the title of his talk suggests, long-term success in weight management is challenging.

Studies suggest that 40% of dogs and 55% of cats fail to meet their target weight. Longer-term studies show that 48% of dogs and 46% of cats regain the weight.

 

Despite the facts, the subject is rarely raised in veterinary consultations, excess weight is just too touchy. There’s no profit in making your clients feel guilty.

A second point doctor German made was that society tends to be amused, indulgent or even mocking of overweight people or animals in a way we would never do if someone has cancer or diabetes, heart disease or kidney failure. Obesity is a serious illness and should be viewed as such.

Prevention rather than treatment

Dr German suggested we need a new approach based on prevention rather than treatment. As with most health issues, this is surely the best route. Monitoring puppy weight as they grow to early adulthood can avoid the problem of excess and nip it in the bud.  This is an opportunity and responsibility for pet owners and health professionals alike. Health management is a lifetime process.

Some of you may remember some years ago, Hills Pet Nutrition complained to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) that Burns feeding amounts were too low. I suspect Hills’ thinking was that Burns food was too economical for their liking. I explained to the ASA that we had been using the same feeding amounts for nearly twenty years with excellent results and that no pet owner had complained. I also pointed out there was an epidemic of fat dogs due mainly to overfeeding. Despite that, ASA upheld Hills’ complaint and I decided to change nothing.

A few months later in 2013, FEDIAF, the umbrella organisation of the European Pet Food Industry (www.fediaf.org) produced new reduced feeding guidelines for pets and highlighted, yet again, the problem of overweight pets.

“For humans the WHO considers obesity as one of the greatest public health challenges of the 21st Century. The trend is not limited to humans, as an increasing percentage of cats and dogs are either overweight  or obese.

To promise good pet nutrition, FEDIAF developed, with the help of independent scientists from across Europe, an updated version of the Nutritional Guidelines for Cats and Dogs with a special attention addressing pet obesity.”

To much of a good thing…

I would like to say I am preaching to the converted and that pets fed on Burns don’t suffer from excess weight. After all, Burns foods are designed to promote all-round, holistic health and that includes ensuring optimum weight.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen plenty of overweight Burns fed pets.  The biggest problem is consistent overfeeding. Too many treats plus insufficient exercise make the cocktail which can undo the benefits of the food itself.

For advice and support on the issue of pet obesity, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our dedicated team of nutritionists on our free Helpline or on LiveChat.

by John Burns BVMS MRCVS
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