New research from the University of Liverpool and Mars Petcare’s WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition revealed overweight dogs are more likely to have shorter lives than those at ideal body weights.
Results from the study showed the lifespan of overweight dogs was up to two and a half years shorter when compared to dogs with a healthy body weight. The study was conducted retrospectively over two decades and published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
Using data provided by Banfield Pet Hospital, the study examined more than 50,000 dogs across 12 of the most popular dog breeds. The correlation between being overweight and reduced lifespan was seen in all breeds, although the magnitude of the reduction differed, ranging from between five months for male German Shepherds to two years and six months for male Yorkshire Terriers.
Although the study did not examine the reasons behind the extra weight, feeding habits are thought to play a role in pet obesity. According to a recent Better Cities For Pets survey, 54 percent of cat and dog owners always or often give their pet food if they beg for it, and 22 percent of cat and dog owners sometimes overfeed their pet to keep them happy.
It is estimated only one in five pet owners always measures how much food they are giving their pet, with 87 percent always or often simply estimating the amount of food they think their pet needs at each serving.
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.”