In March, the Pet Food Manufacturer’s Association (PFMA) brought together key figures in the pet care sector to highlight the issue of pet obesity and look at how the industry could tackle this growing problem.
The Pet Obesity Question Time launched the start of the PFMA’s #Get Pets Fit campaign and follows on from the launch of a PFMA report that shows that pet obesity in the UK is on the rise. Pet Obesity: 5 Years On not only showed that very little had changed but also that 77 per cent of vets are actually seeing more obese pets in their surgeries.
Chaired by Mary Sharrock (PFMA Chair Person, PURINA), the panel included a behaviourist and vet experts from academia, industry, the retail and charity sectors. With an audience of almost 100 guests including pet food manufacturers, trade bodies, the veterinary profession, retailers and welfare charities, many interesting ideas were raised.
Dr Philippa Yam, senior lecturer in small animal science at Glasgow University Vet School, set the scene by emphasising the gravity of pet obesity and how it affects quality and quantity of life. Current estimates indicate that veterinary treatment related to obesity costs owners around £215 million a year. Dr Yam reported that the comparative figure for the human sector was £6.4 billion where obesity is overtaking smoking as the number one preventable disease affecting the nation.
The importance of continued education was clear and ideas for further exploration included:
· Tackling the limited understanding of correct portion sizes and making it easier for owners to follow feeding guidelines.
· Promoting healthy body shapes to prevent the shift in the norm towards overweight pets.
· Supporting vet students understanding of the importance of nutrition and the science behind it so that these messages can be passed on to owners.
· Acknowledging the instinctive need of owners to treat their pets as part of their nurturing behaviour but urging restraint.
Professor Peter Neville of COAPE advised: “There is an innate mammalian psychological need to feed and care for our young. Our pets also prompt and fuel this need in us and it is fulfilling this need that can cause us to feed them too much, which leads to obesity.”
Michael Bellingham summed up the event: “The Pet Obesity Time was a great discussion and we now have the real potential to turn ideas in to actions. PFMA will be following up with our guests at the AGM to see where we can take things forward as individual groups within the pet care sector but also in collaboration”.
The report and more information can be downloaded from www.pfma.org.uk