Pet Food Institute

Managing Obesity in Pets

It is not just humans who fight the battle of the bulge. According to a recently released study, obesity in pets is a growing problem with 56% of dogs and 60% of domestic cats in the U.S. tipping the scales at an unhealthy weight.

Those figures represent 50.2 million dogs and 56.5 million cats, according to the association that tracks pet obesity and health-related conditions.

Now pet food manufacturers with support from the Washington, DC-based Pet Food Institute are joining animal nutritionists and veterinarians stepping up the message to ‘feed and treat responsibly’ in The Bahamas and Caribbean as well as North America.

Dr. Leslie Hancock-Monroe, a Los Angeles-based veterinary nutritionist and director of nutrition and health at pet food manufacturer The J.M. Smucker Company, told veterinarians gathered in Kingston, Jamaica recently that that overdoing those extra treats that pet owners think show love can increase risk factors related to osteoarthritis, respiratory dysfunction, urinary tract disease, cancer and dermatologic conditions. Other health complications range from high cholesterol to premature aging in bones and joints.

Veterinarians, said Dr. Hancock-Monroe, must play a key role in improving the health of pets, even though they find it difficult to discuss obesity with their clients.

Addressing the Jamaican Veterinary Medical Association (JVMA) during a packed meeting in Kingston, one of four held annually with attendance boosted by regulatory licensing requirements, Dr. Hancock-Monroe described risk factors exacerbated by excess weight. Veterinarians and animal caregivers in the Caribbean nation are required to show proof of continuing education to retain their license.

Pet Food Institute (Caribbean)’s sponsorship helps to deliver information in the practical and theoretical sessions. The regional arm of the DC-based association promotes initiatives to advance pet nutrition and the overall quality of pet food in Jamaica, The Bahamas, Trinidad & Tobago and Turks and Caicos. Committed to helping dogs and cats live long and healthy lives, PFI and its members make 98 per cent of all U.S. pet food and treat products.

“It’s increasingly common for pet parents to accidentally provide too many treats as a means of showing love for their pets and failing to recognize the signs of obesity,” said Dr. Hancock-Monroe who recommends that pet owners review how many treats they provide their pets and start an activity program with increased play time and regular walks.

“It’s important to explain to clients that begging is learned behavior, and not typically related to nutrition or hunger.” said the nutrition expert, who acknowledges the difficulty of weight loss in pets. “Veterinarians can support healthy pets by encouraging lifelong habits, such as regular exercise, responsible treating and carefully-measured meals.”

The lecture coincided with Champion Dog Fest Funday which brought together dogs from all over Jamaica to compete for prizes in best in show, best dressed Jamaican mongrel, as well as categories for the fittest, rarest and best trained dogs. That event was also sponsored by Pet Food Institute-Caribbean.

As the voice of U.S. pet food makers for nearly 60 years, PFI conducts lectures to help inform practicing vets and veterinary students of the dual benefits of properly prepared and certified pet food to maintain good health and to better resist disease, premature aging and debilitating conditions. Accompanying Hancock-Monroe was the Washington-based PFI representative, Daniel ‘Nat’ Davies.