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The importance of a healthy diet and fitness regime for dogs

October 13, 2021 3 min read

The importance of a healthy diet and fitness regime for dogs

National Pet Obesity Awareness Day 13 October 2021

It is true to say that pets come in all shapes and sizes, but sometimes sizes get a little out of hand. That’s why on October 13 the world comes together to recognise National Pet Obesity Day to remind people to keep their pets healthy.

The initiative was started in the USA by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) but has been adopted in the UK by the Pet Food Manufacturing Association (PFMA), pet charities, pet food manufacturing companies, veterinary organisations and re-homing centres to highlight the importance of good and balanced nutrition as well as regular exercise. More walks, fewer scraps from the table, a well balanced nutritious diet and the occasional visit to the vet to check on their weight can lead to happier, longer and healthier lives for our pets.

According to the APOP, currently more than half of all domestic dogs and cats in the world are clinically overweight. This can lead to serious health issues for these animals including diabetes, arthritis, decreased life expectancy, high blood pressure and cancer. Not only is this hard for your pet but it can prove costly with more visits to the vet.

The PFMA believes there are strong parallels with human/childhood obesity and pet obesity. These stem from high carb/sugar diets, high calorie intake, socio-cultural, psychological and family factors all having a part to play and according to NHS research, fat has become the new ‘norm’. If humans are not watching their own diets then they are less likely to be watching the calorie intake of their pets.

The last ten year survey undertaken by the PFMA in 2019 revealed that that almost 68% of owners think their pet is exactly the right size and 67% admit they are not concerned about pet obesity. Only 8% admitted their pet needs to lose some weight and 12% said that their pet needed to lose a small amount of weight. 57% of those surveyed had not discussed weight with their vet. Almost half of these pet owners judge their pet’s weight by looking at it and 16% admit they are guessing. Only 12% have looked at a body condition chart and only 2% have weighed their pet themselves.

This has led to a number of initiatives to try and help pet owners combat pet obesity particularly in cats and dogs such as fitness clubs, regular weighing sessions at the vets, body mass index checker and food measuring tools, food diaries and calorie counter charts.

Along with regular exercise, not feeding scraps from the table or over-feeding calorific pet treats, Tim Matthews (Walker and Drake sales director) believes that pet food companies can still do more to help pet owners by putting clear labelling on packaging, easy to understand feeding guides and by improving the nutritional content of pet food.

Tim says, “Walker and Drake was formed with the clear intention of producing a British made, complete nutrition dog food, made using the ‘minimal processing’ Cold Pressed technique. We believe that we have developed great products with clear nutritional advantages, and that they are perfect for dog owners looking to keep pet weight under control.”

“As dogs get older and slower it is important to watch their diet to make sure that firstly they do not become obese, and secondly, that the food you are feeding them provides them with the correct level or protein according to their activity level. The correct diet should also contain a balance of vitamins, minerals essential fatty and amino acids to help provide healthy joints, skin, coat and immune system. Senior dogs also require a higher-fibre diet to improve gastrointestinal health.

“A healthy microbiome is crucial for a dog’s overall health, from nutrient absorption to mental health. When bacteria become out of balance, disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), digestive issues, immune system reactions, diabetes, and even depression can result. It is therefore important that you feed a dog a balanced diet that contains all the nutrients your dog needs for health and wellbeing and avoid any ingredients that are likely to cause an allergy or intolerance or obesity such as fillers, artificial colourings and preservatives. Walker and Drake recipes are easily digestible, wheat and gluten free, promote good gut health, hypoallergenic, are great for joint, skin and coat care and the immune system. They contain no nasties and are gently pressed to preserve nutrients.”

Walker and Drake were recent finalists at the prestigious PetQuip Awards and were awarded Highly Commended for their range of cold pressed foods. They are also a finalist in the Business Start-Up category of the Pet Industry Federation Awards which will be presented on 21 October in Northampton.

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