Pet obesity epidemic is top welfare concern for vets

11 October 2016

Over 60% of vets say obesity is the biggest health and welfare concern for UK pets, according to figures released by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) this World Obesity Day (11 October).

BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey polled over 1,600 vets across the UK about the welfare issue that they were most concerned about, with almost two-thirds of companion animal vets citing obesity or overfeeding. As with humans, obesity is a very serious health issue for pets and can lead to life-long and life-threatening illnesses such as heart disease, breathing problems, diabetes and arthritis.

Not following or understanding pet food feeding guidelines, providing too many treats and snacks, and a lack of exercise are all issues contributing to the expanding paunches of our nation’s pets. Although many people believe they are being kind to their animals by providing treats and bigger food portions, they are instead, unintentionally, contributing to their pet’s poor health and limiting their lifespan. Many owners also give their pets human food as a treat, however one human biscuit can equate to a whole packet when fed to an animal due to their smaller body size.

Gudrun Ravetz, President of the British Veterinary Association, said:
“Obesity is a potential killer for pets and we know more and more practices are seeing overweight animals coming through their doors. Many owners show love for their pet through food, but often this is a case of killing with kindness - most animals would instead enjoy playing or interacting with their owner just as much as getting a treat. It’s also vital that owners understand how to correctly feed their pet and how to recognise a healthy body shape, which is something your local vet is well placed to help advise.”

Professor Susan Dawson, President of the British Small Veterinary Association (BSAVA) added:
“It really is vital that vets and pet owners work together to help animals stay healthy. All companion animals deserve a nutritionally balanced diet; in fact it is a requirement of the Animal Welfare Acts. Of course it is tempting to give too many treats and easy to forget to weigh food out, but because obesity can cause serious health and welfare problems for companion animals BSAVA strongly recommends that bodyweight and body condition are monitored regularly and diets modified to maintain a healthy weight. Talk to your vet or vet nurse – they can help.”

Any pet can become obese and it is therefore very important to understand how to feed them correctly. If owners are in any doubt about their pet’s diet or unsure of the right food or portion size for their animal, they should speak to a local vet who will be able to advise them.

BVA Media Office