Older owners were more likely to have overweight dogs and to give more snacks.
A majority of pet dogs are now too fat, according to a study that found six out of 10 adult dogs are classified as overweight or obese. Risk factors which made dogs in the study more likely to be overweight included lack of exercise, being fed on table scraps, and being given too many snacks or treats. Dogs were also more likely to be overweight if their owners were elderly or poorer – or, say the researchers, if the owners were themselves obese.
“As in human beings, this had major health implications as obesity is known to predispose to or exacerbate a range of clinical conditions including arthritis, and ultimately decreased longevity,” say the researchers from Glasgow University.
“The proportion of the human population in the UK which is obese has increased by 400 per cent in the last 25 years. With this increase of obesity in the UK, it is of relevance to veterinary surgeons that overweight people are more likely to have overweight dogs.”
Researchers took the measurements of 700 dogs aged one or over, and their owners, at five veterinary practices around Glasgow. The results, published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice, showed that only 35 per cent of the animals were classed as having the ideal body shape. In total, 59 per cent were judged to be too heavy, including 20 per cent that were clinically obese and 39 per cent that were merely overweight. Only one in 20 dogs was underweight.
For the study, vets carried out detailed assessments of the amount of fat on different parts of each dog’s body, and placed each animal into one of seven categories. Dogs in the top category, “severely overweight”, tended to weigh at least 15 per cent more than the optimum for their body size.
Further results showed that pets fed on table scraps were more likely to be classed as obese, while those that received snacks and treats were significantly more likely to be overweight.
Older owners were more likely to have overweight dogs and to give more snacks, with some dogs getting half a dozen snacks a day.
Owner income was also linked to risk, with pets of poorer people more likely to be overweight. Owners earning more than £40,000 a year were 61 per cent less likely to have clinically obese dogs compared with owners who earned less than £10,000 a year.
Dogs classed as obese received significantly fewer exercise hours a week than non-obese dogs. The risk of a dog being obese dropped by four per cent for each additional hour of exercise a dog received a week.
A number of studies around the world have suggested that dogs are getting fatter, just like humans. A study in France showed that 39 per cent dogs were overweight, while in Australia, 41 per cent were classed as overweight or obese.