How pet food manufacturers, retailers and owners can help to turn the tide

Pet obesity is rising just as sharply as human obesity. As the growth in pet humanisation continues, the likelihood of owners adopting unhealthy habits with their pets is also set to increase. Between feeding scraps at the table to giving them an extra treat or two on weekends, owners are mirroring their habitual regime often without realising. As such, the latest research from the US Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) has stated that in 2018 up to 59% of cats and 56% of dogs were classified as overweight or obese 

Now, we must ask ourselves honestly, is pet obesity worsening? Ten years after the Pet Food Manufacturers Association’s (PFMA) first report in 2009 on the state of pet obesity, the UK organisation has since released its 2019 report with rather bleak results.   

The current state of pet obesity  

The PFMA surveyed 277 veterinarians at the London Vet Show in November 2018 and concluded that 74% of vets surveyed believed that the prevalence of obesity had increased over the last five years. In addition, vets confirmed 51% of dogs, 44% of cats and 29% of small animals were overweight or obese – increasing significantly from its research conducted in 2015 (45% dogs, 40% cats, 28% small animals)  

Unfortunately, while the problems are easily recognised by veterinary professionals, owners are less likely to identify their pet’s weight issues. The PFMA surveyed 8,000 households across the UK, where 68% believed their pet was the right size, with 67% unconcerned about pet obesity. In addition, only 8% admitted their pet needed to lose weight, while over half said they hadn’t discussed their pet’s weight with a vet.  

Herein lies the issue at heart. If up to 30% of owners admit they have never read the packaging on pet food, how can they serve an adequate portion? And if they guess their pet’s weight on appearance alone, how do they know if their pet is the correct size for their breed and age? The heart of the issue is easy to pinpoint; knowledge between vets, manufacturers and retailers is not being shared in a format that’s understandable and digestible to pet owners. So, how can we solve it?  

How industry professionals can help  

Collaboration across the full supply chain is required to ensure owners are given accurate and up-to-date information on their companion animal. From where the food is sourced to how it’s packaged and marketed in retailers, spreading the correct message is vital to ensure animals lead long and healthy lives.  

For example, the PFMA has launched a ‘Body Size Checker’ that is used on the back of pet food packaging to raise awareness of what a healthy body size is for a dog, cat and rabbit. This is in addition to its ‘Pet Size-O-Meter’ which can be accessed online. Elsewhere, the FEDIAF European Pet Food Industry has easy to download fact sheets detailing nutritional information, including how to understand pet food labels. Alternatively, in the US, the Pet Industry Leadership Summit takes place annually and offers a Pet Store Pro program that delivers free training for pet retailers. This includes information on fact-based, brand neutral pet nutrition guidance. And for pet owners, the RSPCA offers easy ways to check if your dog or cat is overweight.  

Yet even with all this information available online, is there another reason why owners are so in the dark when it comes to pet obesity? We believe it’s simply down to a lack of time. For instance, caregivers are unlikely to give a second thought to the number of treats and food scraps given to their pets, versus the time they have spent exercising or playing with them that day. This surplus in calories is all but forgotten when it comes to feeding time. Instead of cutting out treats altogether, caregivers must change tactics. Either by carving out additional time to play and exercise or by reducing their intake of food by making sure they choose healthier food and snacks.   

A healthy snack makes for a happy pet 

At Biomega, we are passionate about pet health. As a leading biosciences company, we’re researching how ingredients from pure Norwegian salmon can provide long-term health gains for dogs, cats and small animals. Since salmon delivers a wide range of health benefits, it’s often recommended by veterinarian professionals to ease joint pain and reduce inflammation in companion animals 

By using high quality fresh salmon parts, we use a patented process to transfer them naturally and gently into premium food grade ingredients. This unique process hydrolyses the salmon parts into hydrolysed proteins (peptides), and we gently separate the oil by phasing it out. These ingredients are then positioned for premium petfood applications and branded as Salmigo Active, Salmigo Protect and Salmigo Salmon Oil. For example, when Salmigo Protect SD is added to petfood applications or nutritious supplements, the hypo allergenic bioactive peptide offers excellent weight management properties to prevent obesity in pets, increase muscle recovery and stimulates the immune system. In addition, our latest research also considers Salmigo Protect L60 as a healthy and palatable replacement for glycerine in semi-moist pet treats.   

Between our ongoing pet food research, combined with the foreknowledge of industry professionals, we can easily help pets obtain longer, healthier and fuller lives. Yet to do that, we need owners to invest their time and effort into combining beneficial and highly nutritional food choices with adequate exercise for their pets. Only then can we make a significant difference.  

For more information on Biomega products for petfood applications, please email: 

The Rise of Pet Obesity