Was one of your New Year’s resolutions to eat a healthier diet, and maybe lose a bit of weight in the process? And have you included your pets in this wellbeing initiative? ‘Veganuary’ is being supported by more people than ever this year, and veganism is the fastest growing food trend in the UK … for humans and dogs (please note, though, that cats are carnivores and they very definitely need meat in their diet).
The pet food market is a huge one, and it continues to grow year on year as pet owners strive to give their four-legged friends the very best diets. In 2017 a staggering £379 million was spent on premium pet foods, which include raw and organic formulations, and those specifically designed for a particular breed type or health condition.
Perhaps the most unusual ingredient currently on the market is dog food which includes insects as its main ingredient – black soldier flies, to be precise. The manufacturer is a Dutch company and it markets the product as an environmentally friendly one, in that it doesn’t use meat and is therefore kinder to the planet. It’s estimated that 20% of the world’s meat is consumed by pets.
This argument isn’t as straight forward as it might seem, though, because dog and cat food manufactured in the UK has to be made from offal (i.e. what is left over) from the production of meat intended for human consumption. Strict laws controlling what meat ingredients can go into dog and cat food were introduced in the UK after the B.S.E. outbreak in the 1990s, and so it’s fairly safe to say that feeding our pets meat is not adding to meat production in the UK overall.
Whether you and your pets eat meat or not, consuming the right amount of calories and taking sufficient exercise remains the basis of good health. It’s estimated that of the nine million dogs owned in the UK, 50 per cent of them are obese or overweight. This is serious because, just as in humans, being overweight can be life-limiting.
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons did a retrospective study last year with a hundred thousand dogs and concluded that overweight dogs lived shorter lives. They are more prone to heart disease, osteoarthritis and type-two diabetes, and they often lead a diminished quality of life in the years before they die. They also cost their owners a lot of money in veterinary fees.
If you’re worried that your dog, or cat, is overweight then you should ask your vet for advice about what your pet’s ideal weight should be and the best way to achieve it. A simple rule of thumb is that you should be able to see, or feel, a waistline – a slight curve inwards between the hips and the ribs; and you should also be able to feel the ribs when you brush your hand over your pet’s sides.
We’re seeing more and more overweight dogs and cats coming through our doors, and we encourage all pet owners to ‘think before they treat’.