Tuesday, April 08, 2014

"Good" news: It's not just people

Source: Sunday Telegraph
The UK Sunday Telegraph reported this week:

The waistlines of Britain’s pets have expanded to ever greater dimensions, with a new report revealing that almost half of cats and dogs are now regarded by vets as obese. The new study suggests the numbers of overweight animals has soared in the last five years, and claims that the cost of treating pets for obesity-related conditions is now around £215 million a year.

The problem is worst in dogs, with vets reporting that 45 per cent of those they treat are obese or overweight. The situation is little better in cats (40 per cent), while it was also noted in almost a third of small animals, like rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs (28 per cent). Even pet birds now suffer with their weight, with problems observed in 15 per cent.

Is this about exercise? Mainly not:

One in three owners admitted feeding their animals “human” food, while the numbers giving them leftovers had risen by 28 per cent in the last five years. Vets believe this is the leading cause of pet weight gain – responsible for eight out of ten cases in dogs. 

Is that all?  No:

[S]ome experts have started to blame pet food manufacturers themselves for making obesity problems worse. David Jackson, a former pet industry nutritionist, has set up a website – whichdogfood.co.uk – where he analyses the contents of various brands. 

It discovered salt, sugar, oils and fats in a number of leading brands and found chicken dinners containing just four per cent chicken. Some pet nutritionists and behaviourists argue that, just as with children’s junk food, pet food today is at least partly responsible for an epidemic of animal obesity, as well as some behavioural issues. 

I don't know even how to begin thinking about this. How does all this make you feel? Should we care? If so, what's to be done?


Anonymous said...

You knew I had to comment. (:
As far as pet obesity, they say pets and their owners begin to resemble each other, so perhaps it's inevitable given the epidemic of human obesity.

Concerning pet food, it's a morass. My recently deceased Chesapeake ate Purina Dog Chow (with the vet's blessing) for 10+ years and was healthy, but now I am afraid to take her 40 lb bag of leftover food to the local SPCA for fear they will say it's not good enough. Does price equal quality? Who knows, similar to organic food for humans.


Robin Eichert said...

I'm an interested observer of our health care system and enjoy your blog to learn more about it. Now that you've raised the topic of animals, my ears really perked up! Nutrition of our domestic animals is definitely something we should care about. For starters, we are responsible for what we feed our four-legged family members, and that means we should know what's in it and how it is impacting their systems. (I have significantly reduced the number and intensity of my dog's seizures by eliminating food that had corn in it, which dogs can't process. I understand that won't be the solution for all dogs.) But it's a fact that most manufactured dog foods use inferior (understatement) ingredients because they are cheap. Just as is the case with processed foods for humans; eating whole foods is much better. Many veterinarians don't focus on nutrition as the cause of illnesses, nor help you figure out what diet is best. Yet in my reading and research, it's a critical component to a healthy pet. As I learn more about animal nutrition, the lessons apply to humans, and wouldn't it be great if we all benefited from taking better care of ourselves? I very much appreciate you including this article on your blog!

Jordan Melson said...

Hey Paul, I read your blog often because I like your take on "patient-driven care." This was a really interesting article to me. I've been reading a couple of articles and blogs online about the poor nutrition in pet foods (a lot of corn, from what I read - not great for primarily carnivores), but I didn't know the numbers were so high. Many pet owners cite that they buy the less nutritious food because it's cheaper and more easily available...kind of like fast food for humans. It seems that, essentially, availability and education is needed for people to start addressing problems associated with weight for both themselves and their pets.