Research from the University of Liverpool and Mars Petcare’s WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition has revealed overweight dogs are more likely to have shorter lives than those at ideal body weights.

The study, conducted across two decades, examined more than 50,000 dogs from 12 of the most popular breeds. The consequences of being overweight were seen in all breeds, however the significance of the effect differed, ranging from between five months less for male German Shepherds to two years and six months less for male Yorkshire Terriers.

It is estimated that over a quarter of households (26%) in the UK and nearly half in the US (47.6%) own a dog. Although the study did not examine the reasons behind pets carrying extra weight, feeding habits are thought to play a big role. This is a growing concern, as pet obesity is steadily on the rise and many owners are unaware of the serious health implications that come with the extra pounds.

According to a recent Better Cities For Pets survey, more than half (54%) of cat and dog owners always or often give their pet food if they beg for it, and nearly a quarter (22%) of cat and dog owners sometimes overfeed their pet to keep them happy. Latest figures also estimate that one in three dogs and cats in the U.S. are overweight.

Study co-author and Professor of Small Animal Medicine at the University of Liverpool Alex German, said, “Owners are often unaware that their dog is overweight, and many may not realise the impact that it can have on health. What they may not know is that, if their beloved pet is too heavy, they are more likely to suffer from other problems such as joint disease, breathing issues, and certain types of cancer, as well as having a poorer quality of life. These health and wellbeing issues can significantly impact how long they live.

“For many owners, giving food, particularly tasty table scraps and tidbits, is the way we show affection for our pets. Being careful about what you feed your dog could go a long way to keeping them in good shape and enabling them to be around for many years to come.

“Worryingly, it is estimated only one in five pet owners always measures how much food they are giving their pet, with four in five (87%) always or often simply estimating the amount of food they think their pet needs at each serving.”

When it comes to healthy weight management prevention is better than a cure, and to prevent obesity, you need to spot it early. There are a few simple things you can do to make sure your dog maintains a healthy weight:

1) Speak to your local vet about your dog’s ideal body weight – they can advise you on feeding amounts as they change from pups through to old age
2) Ensure they get enough exercise – this will depend on their size and breed type
3) Skip the table scraps – not all human food is safe for pets and some can even be deadly
4) Weigh your dog – even slight increases in weight can have a big impact on their health

The full study, ‘Association between life span and body condition in neutered client‐owned dogs’, can be found here 

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