The UK's Pet Food Manufacturers' Association (PFMA) has released its latest pet obesity report, "Pet Obesity: Five Years On," which highlights the discrepancy between the numbers and pet owners' perceptions. According to the PFMA, three in four (77%) vets believe that pet obesity is on the rise. However, two in three (63%) pet owners feel there are more important issues relevant to their pets than obesity.
Vets consider the root causes of pet weight gain to be owners not following feeding guides (72% re: cats, 60% re: small animals and 28% re: birds), treating with leftover food (78% re: dogs) and insufficient exercise, particularly for cats (46%), dogs (44%) and small animals (35%).
"Overweight pets, like humans, can suffer from a myriad of health issues such as osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease and diabetes," said Zara Boland, BVSc BE MRCVS, founder of Vet Voice Ltd. "There is nothing 'cuddly' about an overweight pet. Obesity is a disease in itself. It causes discomfort and illness that can result in both emotional distress and financial pressure for owners, and it has also been proven to reduce actual life length. We must continue pushing the pet health message until overweight pets are no longer an increasing and widespread concern."
New findings in the latest report, conducted five years after the initial report, show that although pet owners' awareness of pet obesity has improved, cause for concern remains-while vets feel up to 45% of all pets they see are overweight (45% of dogs, 40% of cats, 28% of small animals and 15% of caged birds), two in three (63%) pet owners believe their pet is the correct weight. The vast majority (93%) of pet owners say they would be concerned to discover their pet is overweight, yet only one in three (37%) know how to check this, indicating that existing tools and guidelines are simply not getting enough cut-through, according to the PFMA.
Taking its latest pet owner and vet findings into account, PFMA says that controlling portion size and monthly weighing or measuring are priority for any owners wanting to prolong and improve their pet's life. "All the tools are in place for pet owners and pet care professionals to better pets' lives together-now is the time to use them," said Michael Bellingham, chief executive of PFMA. "We need to engage pet owners emotionally, helping them realize that feeding and exercising their pet to optimum level can result in an extra two years of active life. To help spread the word about ideal pet weight, PFMA will launch a #GetPetsFit campaign in May this year (2014)."
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