Humans are turning their pets into recreational eaters, as part of a growing trend towards humanisation that could be shaving years off a dog’s life.
Research done by one Australian pet insurance company has found a 100 per cent increase in claims for obesity-related illnesses over the past five years – as owners apply their own eating habits to their beloved canine buddies.
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While breeds such as the affable Labrador and the pampered Pug have long appeared to be among the frontrunners in the canine obesity stakes, the field is broadening rapidly, according to Sydney vet Dr Oliver Conradi.*
Breeds identified as most at risk from obesity-related diseases now include Australian Terriers, Siberian Huskies, Bichon Frises, Schnoodles, Maltese Terriers and Rottweilers.
And rather than any particular breed’s innate fondness for food that is fuelling the obesity epidemic, human owners’ urges to treat their pets as they treat themselves is an increasingly underlying factor.
“Like humans, our pets are increasingly living sedentary lifestyles,” Conradi said.
“Now we’re seeing the results, with much higher incidents of claims for obesity and associated conditions.
“Obesity is a risk factor in our pets for a number of serious diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, joint diseases, tracheal collapse … and even some types of cancer”
Add the human predilection for ‘pleasure snacking’ to a dog’s daily routine, and what might appear to be a harmless gesture of affection, can do untold long-term damage.
“Treats can be a way to bond with your pet and help with training,” he said.
“But what many owners forget is that overall food intake needs to be taken into account and reduced accordingly.
“And feeding dogs fatty high-calorie human food – like scraps from the dinner table – is never a good idea.”
Nutrition is key
Conradi recommends a few basic rules to maintain a dog’s healthy weight and keep vet bills to a minimum.
- Use a quality pet food that has a feeding guide on the label and follow it
- Treats should be counted as part of a dog’s overall daily calorie intake, so reduce meal portions accordingly
- Ignore the puppy eyes under the dinner table. There is no place for fatty human food scraps in a dog’s diet
- If your pooch is starting to pork up, consult a vet, get a nutrition plan and stick to it
Like humans, exercise also plays a crucial role in a dog’s overall health and wellbeing.
The optimum level of exercise varies greatly from breed to breed.