Banfield Animal Hospital recently published a State of Pet Health report. The most significant fact stated in this report is regarding pet obesity. Banfield reports a 90% increase in overweight cats and a 37% increase in overweight dogs just in the last five years.
From information collected at Banfield pet hospitals all across the U.S., the veterinary chain utilizes their own medical database. From this database, Banfield publishes their State of Pet Health report. This years provides some startling information.
“The prevalence of excess body weight has increased by 37 percent in dogs and 90 percent in cats since 2007.”
One of the reasons for the huge increase in pet obesity seems to be treats – both commercial and human food as treats – according to the Banfield report. “In order to keep pets at a healthy weight, the treats they receive each day should be limited to less than 10 percent of their daily caloric requirements and, when treats are given, the amount of food fed each day should be reduced by 10 percent.” “While both dogs and cats often receive human food as treats, pet owners do not realize that even in small quantities, human food can represent a large percent of a pet’s daily caloric requirement.”
I have to wonder (and yes I’d like to know your response to these questions)…
Do most pet owners know what the daily caloric requirement is for their dog or their cat?
Has your veterinarian ever provided you with this information? Especially before there would be a weight concern?
Most pet treats do not provide calorie statements on their labels. Regulations will not require this information to be provided to pet food/treat consumers until 2017.
Pet food/treat caloric content is calculated differently than human food calories are calculated. Human food calories are calculated using the ‘Atwater System’; pet foods use the ‘Modified Atwater System’. Modified Atwater significantly lowers the calorie content reporting in pet foods and treats. As example, over a year, for a 30 pound dog – the Modified Atwater System used to calculate calorie content in a pet food would add up to be 35,000 calories less than if human food calculations were used.
Recommended feeding amounts for pet foods stated on the label are commonly higher than recommended calorie requirements. Many are significantly higher. Calculations of calories consumed for one dog food – based on manufacturer recommended feeding – resulted in 192 calories a day OVER what is recommended for a 30 pound dog. By human standards, one can gain 15 pounds a year by consuming only 100 extra calories a day (over a year).
Pet foods and treats are not required to state actual fat content in the Guaranteed Analysis. Regulations require fat to be stated as minimum. Thus, a pet food or treat could state 5% fat minimum on the label, when the food or treat actually contains 10% fat, 15% fat, or even more.
There is no denying there is a pet obesity epidemic. However solely blaming the pet owner is absolutely wrong.
I encourage Banfield and all veterinarians to understand the challenges pet owners face. The above facts surrounding calorie statements and nutritional content of pet foods and treats is merely the tip of the iceberg. Pet owners struggle to find quality pet foods made from quality ingredients in a maze of misinformation and marketing. We worry with each meal if the food will kill or sicken our pets.
Pet food consumers need veterinarians to become involved in the prevention of pet obesity and the diseases related to obesity. I encourage Banfield and all veterinarians to tell the FDA and AAFCO that actual nutritional information should be provided to pet food consumers on all pet food and pet treat labels. Please tell the FDA and AFFCO their current system isn’t working.
I thank Banfield for this revealing report. Without their data collection, we would not have the actual facts to prove to the FDA and AAFCO the existing nutritional statements and calorie calculations are actually detrimental to pet health. Immediate change is required.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
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