Hill's Pet Nutrition and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association released a research study on pet health and wellness in Canada, which found that the choices pet owners make regarding petfood and exercise may affect the length and quality of their pet's life.

The study, Canada's Pet Wellness Report, surveyed 1,000 Canadian dog and/or cat owners, and 100 veterinarians, on topics including exercise, nutrition, veterinary care, lifestage-related needs and overall health status.

The study found that pet owners are missing the visible signs of common pet health issues that must be managed in order for pets to live longer, healthier lives.

"Overall, the research suggests that addressing the exercise, nutritional and dental care needs of pets is key to enhancing pet health and wellness in the country," said Dr. Jim Berry, veterinarian and member of CVMA Executive.

Canadian pet owners choose to surf the Internet more than exercise their pets, according to the study. On an average weekday, the study found pet owners spend 48 minutes surfing the Internet and 79 minutes watching TV, as they do playing with or exercising their pets, an average of just 25 minutes. On the weekend, Canadian pet owners surveyed said they only exercised pets for 29 minutes on average, while they spent triple the time watching TV (89 minutes) and 44 minutes online.

"Pet owners need a better understanding of the health implications of inadequate exercise of their pets and the importance of basic decisions, such as what and how to feed them," said Dr. Berry. "Otherwise their pets might be at risk for a range of broader health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes and mobility issues."

The study's findings suggest pet owners also need to adjust how they evaluate what food to buy for their pets and how to properly feed them, so as to maintain a healthy weight. Pet owners said they were 60% more likely to buy petfood based on the food's palatability, versus 30% who said they purchase petfood that will meet the health needs of their pet, regardless of how much the pet likes the food's taste. Findings also showed that just 18% of pet owners feed their pets the amount recommended on the petfood package, and only 17% of pet owners said they actually review the food's ingredient information. Moreover, 44.5% of overall pet owners said they feed their pets by "making food available to their pet(s) at all times," which was more common for cat owners (57%) than dog owners (32%), according to the study.

Veterinarians surveyed said they believe the majority of dogs (55%) and cats (70%) that they see do not receive an adequate amount of exercise to maintain good health. Of all veterinarians surveyed, 63% said they were most likely to cite weight control as one of the most important factors pet owners can control to increase their pet's life, yet only one in 10 pet owners proactively ask them about the proper nutrition for their pet. The majority of veterinarians, 65%, said overfeeding is the most common mistake pet owners make when providing food for their dogs or cats, and that a majority of pet owners are surprised to hear the veterinarian diagnose their pet as obese.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded online from CVMA.