Obesity is vets’ number one concern

Human-animal interaction expert, Dr John Bradshaw, is heading discussions exploring the bond between humans and animals at the British Veterinary Association (BVA) Congress, as part of today’s London Vet Show (November 19-20).

The event takes place as new figures from BVA show vets’ top concerns about pets are rooted in owners’ misunderstanding of their animals’ needs.

Dr Bradshaw, author of Dog Sense, In Defence of Dogs and Cat Sense, argued in yesterday’s Wooldridge Memorial Lecture that the bond formed when owners treat pets as ‘furry humans’ is essential but can also have severe repercussions when owners forget that pets are animals with distinct needs.

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To coincide with the London Vet Show, BVA released findings from its Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey that suggest owners’ misunderstanding of pets’ needs lie behind vets’ top welfare concerns:

  • Obesity and overfeeding were the number one concern of companion animal vets (64%)
  • Owner misunderstanding of animal needs was the third most mentioned concern (19%).

Amongst vets who work with exotic animals, major concerns included:

  • Poor or inappropriate husbandry (56%)
  • Owners’ misunderstanding of animal needs (48%).

Dr Bradshaw said: “Dogs and cats are not what they were a century ago. Most are now kept solely for companionship and treated as part of the family by their owners. This anthropomorphism can blind owners to their pet’s priorities. In the UK alone, millions of dogs suffer every day due to fundamental misunderstandings of how their minds work. I hope to explore at BVA Congress how the veterinary profession could take a more all-encompassing approach to animal welfare, and help owners better understand what their pets need.”

BVA President Sean Wensley said: “Any vet who has worked with pets will know what strong bonds exist between owners and their loved animals. But evidence – including BVA’s own survey and the PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report – points to welfare issues, such as obesity and poor socialisation, arising from owners’ misunderstanding of their animal’s needs.

“Owners’ good intentions do not always translate into good understanding of their animal’s welfare needs and vets and veterinary nurses can support owners to gain this understanding. This is why BVA feels it is so important to discuss the opportunities and challenges of the human-animal bond at one of the most important meetings in the veterinary profession’s year.”

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