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Survey: Pet owners want more pet weight advice

Veterinarians aren’t as proactive as they need to be on the subject of nutrition and obesity.

Survey: Pet owners want more pet weight advice
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Association for Pet Obesity PreventionPet owners trust their veterinarian to provide nutritional advice but don’t get enough of it, according to a new report from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.

The organization’s 11th annual survey, completed online by 1,156 pet owners, found that veterinarians ranked highest regarding “Where you receive the best dietary recommendations for your pet.” The problem, the association reported, is that 68 percent of pet owners would have liked their veterinarian to recommend a proper diet for their cat or dog but only 38 percent said the doctor actually did so. Twenty-two percent had to ask.

Furthermore, veterinarians discussed an animal’s weight during the annual exam just 53 percent of the time. Twenty percent of pet owners said body weight was addressed only when they brought it up.

“What pet owners are telling us year after year is that they desperately want advice,” said the association’s president, Ernie Ward, DVM. “They want help. They’re being overwhelmed by choices — walk down any pet food aisle, hundreds of different bags are calling out for their attention.”

The most common ways for helping a pet lose weight are not unlike what people do. Among the pet owners and 574 veterinary professionals surveyed, 68 percent favored smaller food portions or reduced calories, and 61 percent saw the value of increased exercise.

Those two weight-loss strategies produced positive results. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said providing smaller portions or fewer calories was “very effective” and one-third said it was “somewhat effective.” Exercise made a difference in two-thirds of pets.

The questionnaire also revealed that the percentage of overweight or obese cats and dogs was about the same as in 2017. Using a nine-point body condition score, practitioners in October 2018 found that 59.5 percent of cats and 55.8 percent of dogs fit the definition of overweight or obese, compared with 60.0 and 56.0 percent, respectively, one year earlier.

“Veterinarians need to offer more obesity treatment options than ‘Feed less and exercise more,’” said Dr. Ward, who serves on the Today’s Veterinary Business editorial advisory board.

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