Our Policies

Companion animal obesity (dogs, cats, horses, donkeys and rabbits)

What's the issue?

Obesity is a serious clinical condition and health and welfare concern in all animals.

Obesity can negatively impact the health and welfare of companion animals by causing functional impairment, increasing the risk of diseases, shortening life span, and reducing overall quality of life.

In animals, obesity can be characterised as abnormal or excessive expansion of white adipose tissue mass (an increase in white fat). In general, obesity occurs when there is an imbalance between energy intake and energy expenditure - usually caused by excessive calorie intake or not using enough energy through movement and exercise.

However, obesity is a multifactorial condition and has several risk factors that can lead to weight gain across companion animal species, including:

  • Dietary factors
  • Lack of exercise
  • Breed and genetics
  • Neutering
  • Health status
  • Owner behaviours

What's our view

We recognise the serious physiological, health and welfare implications of obesity. Obesity should be considered as a legitimate clinical condition and serious health and welfare concern in all animals.

The veterinary professions, animal owners and keepers, show judges and breeders, breed societies and clubs, animal welfare organisations and marketing professionals, should work together to prevent, manage and increase awareness of obesity in companion animals, as well as promote healthy body images.

We’ve made 30 recommendations setting out how stakeholders can work together to achieve this.

Our recommendations cover:

  • Body condition scoring
  • The role of the veterinary professions at an individual, practice and association level
  • Weight management programme, dietary choices and the role of owners
  • Breed standards and the show ring
  • Responsibilities of advertisers, and images in marketing material

dog running with boy

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