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Experts warn of the risks of festive weight gain
Only 15% of owners described their pets as overweight or obese.
Pet owners urged to ‘watch and weigh’ to avoid the ‘Christmas Effect’

With Christmas excesses not far off, experts are flagging parallels between human and pet obesity. Research shows that holiday weight gain in humans is a worldwide phenomenon, but it should also be a concern for the 50 per cent of UK adults who own a pet.

A recent Harris Poll revealed that nearly all (95%) of pet owners consider their pets to be members of the family; and in the 2018 PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report, vets estimated that 46 per cent of dogs they saw in practice each week are overweight or obese. However, only 15 per cent of owners described their pets as overweight – and none selected the  ‘very overweight’ or ‘obese.’ categories!

Similarly parents are often not good at recognising unhealthy weight in their children; and there may be public misconceptions about what excess weight looks like in humans and pets, because images of obesity used by the media are often extreme.

Pet obesity experts believe the disease – and its related health complications – is the largest health challenge currently facing UK pets. They say that keeping the weight off won’t be achieved by simply blaming owners; and that veterinary professionals need to support pet owners to better understand the factors influencing why their pet is gaining weight.

Dr Alex German, professor of small animal medicine at the University of Liverpool, advocates a great first step is to start long-term monitoring of a pet’s weight. “Weigh your pet weigh, weigh again and keep weighing,” he suggests.” Doing things such as weighing food for each meal, utilising slow feeders for dogs and cats, cutting back on the amount or frequency of treats and exploring specific diets will all also be of benefit.

Dr Hilda Mulrooney, dietitian and associate professor in nutrition at Kingston University, London, who is a specialist in weight management and behaviour change, says the same goes for people. We need to treat obesity like any other chronic disease and not as a personal failing. We should support, not blame, people living with the condition. And it is certainly no laughing matter.

Professor German’s research has shown that dogs carrying excess weight are more likely to exhibit undesirable behaviours, including food stealing, food guarding and aggression both to other dogs and strangers.; and obesity can have serious health implications for pets beyond effects on physical appearance including:
  • diabetes
  • shortened lifespan – by up to two years depending on breed
  • joint issues
  • respiratory difficulties.
Dr Mulrooney advises that to maintain a healthy weight, we should remember that awareness is the first step. Research shows people who lose weight and keep it off successfully, weigh themselves regularly. However, food is just one part of the problem. Obesity – for people and pets – is a complex issue with many contributing factors including genetics. Avoiding ‘hidden’ calories in pre-prepared meals by reading labels and keeping track of actual consumption can help.

The holiday season can see many exercise programmes fall by the wayside too. It is important to maintain – and even increase – physical activity to balance out additional food consumed and walking a dog is a way to do this. But remember, Dr Mulrooney says, you need to walk briskly enough to see shortness of breath to gain the cardiovascular benefits!

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Vets confirm further five cases of Alabama rot

News Story 1
 Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists has confirmed a further five cases of Cutaneous Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy, also known as Alabama rot.

The cases have been confirmed in Wallingford (Oxfordshire), Horsham (West Sussex), Hungerford (Berkshire - two dogs) and Malmesbury (Wiltshire). It brings the total number of confirmed cases to 198 since 2012. There have been 23 cases so far this year.

Signs that a dog has been affected by the disease include skin lesions on the lower limbs or mouth/tongue, leading to kidney failure. While investigations into the cause of the condition are ongoing, owners are being urged to wash their dog after wet or muddy walks.  

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WSAVA launches certificate programme focusing on companion animals in One Health

The first certificate programme focusing specifically on the role of companion animals in One Health has been launched by the One Health Committee (OHC) of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA).

The online programme, which is free of charge for WSAVA members, has been developed in recognition of the growing impact of companion animals in human society. Pet ownership is becoming more popular globally, and this has increased the implications for One Health, regarding the human-companion animal bond. The WSAVA OHC hopes that this course will bridge the knowledge gap between veterinary surgeons and human physicians. New modules are being added weekly, with a total of 20 modules expected to be available by early 2020.