New research shows that overfeeding our dogs could cut their lives short by up to a year – but could fewer treats and more belly rubs help?
A quarter of dogs are allowed to lick their owners’ plates clean every day, sometimes tucking into caviar, lobster and fillet steak. But is obesity the biggest threat to man’s best friend?
Dog owners across the UK are giving new meaning to the phrase ‘a dog’s dinner’, as they admit to treating their four-legged friends to dishes as swanky as caviar, lobster, fillet steak and even Christmas dinner, new research from tailored pet nutrition service tails.com has found.
The tails.com Data Labs research team analysed the habits formed by dog owners when feeding their pets, having observed that over 42% of the dogs joining their service are overweight or obese. Crucially, their research found that the lives of some overweight dogs could be being cut short by up to a year, as owners admit that their dogs may be wise to their weaknesses around treats and human snacks.
WHY ARE WE OVERFEEDING OUR DOGS?
‘Puppy-dog eyes’ appear to be a highly effective way to get more treats, with 38% of owners admitting to giving in to their dog simply for ‘looking cute’, while a further 22% offered up a treat if they thought it would keep their dog quiet or occupied.
‘Dogs are incredibly intelligent and highly social creatures, which makes them wonderful companions and great fun to train,’ explains Carolyn Menteith, Behaviourist at tails.com. ‘But that also means they are smart enough to be able to train us into giving them what they want, too. Those puppy-dog eyes can be hard to resist, and most owners enjoy giving their dog a tasty morsel almost as much as their dog enjoys receiving them. It’s easy to take this too far.’
Almost a quarter of dogs are plate-licker-in-chief in their family, with 24% confessing that their dog is given the dinner dishes to lick on a daily basis, while over a third of owners (37%) also say their dog is head of quality control, as they let them eat ingredients when preparing their own meals.
Resisting our dogs’ charms is well worth it, however, as keeping our dogs at the ideal weight with the right portions and exercise could help them live, on average, six to nine months longer than their overweight counterparts.
‘We may all be dealing with the “battle of the bulge” following the festive season, and our dogs are no exception,’ says Sean McCormack, Head Vet at tails.com. ‘All of those extra little treats and indulgences add up. But many dog owners may be surprised to know that excess weight could be cutting their time with their pets short. To know that our dogs’ lifespans, and quality of life are affected by too many snacks or treats outside meals is heart-wrenching.’
WHAT ARE THE TOP 10 OVERWEIGHT DOG BREEDS?
According to tails.com’s research, the dog breeds most common to overindulging are as follows:
- Border Terrier
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Miniature Dachshund
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
- Yorkshire Terrier
BUT HOPE IS NOT LOST
‘Encouragingly, our data also shows that it’s never too late to make a positive change,’ Sean continues. ‘When an overweight dog gets back to an ideal body condition through healthy nutrition and exercise they can gain months of their life back. It’s good for them, and it’s good for our wellbeing too – not to mention the months longer we can enjoy sharing with our much loved four-legged family members.’
‘Our research also revealed that 37% of owners say that they walk their dog less in winter months because their dog refuses to walk when it’s cold, although it’s more likely that owners don’t fancy braving the cold themselves,’ adds Carolyn. ‘Thankfully, when the weather is really bad, we can couple our dogs’ love of food with their need for exercise and mental stimulation by giving them plenty of interactive toys and reward-based training sessions – all using tasty, healthy treats and without us having to venture out through the front door.’
HOW DO WE KEEP OUR DOGS HEALTHY?
In 2021, tails.com’s personalised nutrition has helped overweight and obese dogs on their subscription service lose over a tonne in weight, with 39% of overweight signups and 15% of obese signups now returning to a normal body condition.
Here are Dr Sean’s top 3 tips on how to avoid overfeeding out dogs:
- Instead of rewarding your dog with treats for good behaviour, reward them with your attention instead. Take five minutes to play their favourite game or give them a belly rub.
- Make sure that you get into a habit of taking your dog for a walk at a certain time of the day; your dog will start to give you reminders when their walk is due after a while.
- Ignore the puppy dog eyes and stay strong. Remember, you are in charge – not them.
For more advice and top tips on how to keep your dog healthy and fit in 2022, visit the tails.com website and follow the hashtag #loveyourdoglonger on Instagram.
*The tails.com research surveyed 1,004 UK dog owners from 13th December to 15th December, 2021.
**Statistics regarding tails.com’s current UK adult dog base came from research undertaken on 7th December, 2021 – totalling over 160,000 dogs – and a study completed in September 2021 of over 110,000 adult dogs from their top 23 breeds signing up between March 2016 and March 2021, modelling the impact of pet weight on their life expectancy.