Tag Archives: obesity

Dog Owners Often Inaccurately Measure Out Kibble, Study Finds

A cup might seem like the most obvious way to measure out dry dog food, but new University of Guelph research finds that when it comes to getting portions right, dog owners often get it wrong.

dog-kibble-768x576

(Pixabay)

The study, designed to test dog owners’ measuring skills, found owners were often inaccurate, ranging from a 48 percent underestimation to a 152 percent overestimation, depending on the device they used and the amount they tried to portion out.

The occasional measurement mistake may not seem like much, but errors made day after day could lead to under-nourishment, weight gain or obesity, said lead author Prof. Jason Coe from U of G’s Ontario Veterinary College.

“We found it particularly concerning to see how often participants over-measured the assigned portions, particularly given that there is an ongoing problem with pet obesity. Dog owners can easily overfeed their animals if they don’t measure out portions correctly, putting their animals at risk of several obesity-related diseases,” he said.

The solution, Coe said, is for dog owners to change their approach to measuring their dog’s dry food. The gold standard would be to use a kitchen scale to weigh out portions. Scales are precise and leave little room for error to ensure that dogs are neither over- nor underfed.

The study, published in the BMJ journal Veterinary Record and funded by Royal Canin, recruited 100 dog owners and asked them to use one of three common measuring devices to measure out kibble: a standard 2-cup scoop with gradated markings, sold at a local pet store; a 2-cup liquid measuring cup typically used for baking; and a 1-cup plastic dry-food measuring cup.

Each participant was asked to take their assigned measuring device and measure out three volumes of dry dog food: ¼ cup, ½ cup and 1 cup. The volume of dog food measured by participants was then compared to the correct weights respectively.

The participants’ portions varied considerably, particularly when they were asked to portion out the smallest volume which participants often got significantly wrong.

“That finding has important implications for small dogs, since they typically receive smaller volumes of food. Even a small amount of over measuring for a small dog can be a considerable increase in their daily caloric intake putting them at risk of weight gain from too much food,” said Coe, who is a researcher with the Department of Population Medicine.

Those using the 2-cup liquid measuring cup were most likely to inaccurately measure all three portions.

“The problem with trying to eyeball 1 cup or ½ cup in a 2-cup device is that there is lots of room for error in deciding where the measurement line is, depending on how you’re holding the cup,” said Coe.

Study participants were most accurate when they used a 1-cup dry-food measuring device to portion out 1 cup of kibble. Another option for improving accuracy is to use a dry-food measuring device matched to the amount needed, said Coe.

“The closer the measuring cup is to the portion you want to measure, the more accurate you’ll be,” said Coe.

But the best method of all, say the researchers, is the kitchen scale, which ensures each portion size is precise.

When the participants in this study were shown how off their usual measurement methods were, most indicated a high likelihood that they would start using a kitchen scale for measuring their dog’s kibble.

“I now use a scale in my own home for accurately measuring my own dog’s kibble. I first found it strange to use. But now that I’m in the routine of using it, it seems weird not to use a scale,” Coe said.

Coe says even dog owners who have pets that are at a healthy weight, ensuring correct food portions now is key to preventing weight gain and weight-related problems down the road.

“Most people want their pets to be happy and healthy and this is a way to keep their pets’ weights in control from Day 1, improving their chances of living long and full lives.”

Source:  University of Guelph

Overweight Danes are more likely to have overweight dogs according to new research

A new study from the University of Copenhagen reports that the prevalence of overweight dogs is markedly larger among overweight owners than among normal weight owners. Part of the explanation lies in whether treats are used as training tools or “hygge-snacks”. It is the first major study on canine obesity in Denmark.

Cute fat pug dog with funny face

Getty images

There’s a bit of truth to the saying “like owner, like dog”. This has now been confirmed by researchers. For the first time in Denmark, researchers have systematically investigated the factors related to our four-legged friends being overweight or obese.  One of the results demonstrates an unambiguous correlation between the weight status of a dog and its owner.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Copenhagen, shows that the prevalence of heavy or obese dogs is more than twice as large among overweight or obese owners than among owners who are slim or of a normal weight.

Part of the explanation rests upon how owners manage dog treats. The research results show a correlation between overweight dog owners and the use of dog treats as “hygge-candy” (cozy-candy).

“Whereas normal weight owners tend to use treats for training purposes, overweight owners prefer to provide treats for the sake of hygge. For example, when a person is relaxing on the couch and shares the last bites of a sandwich or a cookie with their dog,” says Charlotte R. Bjørnvad of the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences. Bjørnvad, a veterinarian and professor, is the main author of the research article, now published in the journal Preventive Veterinary Medicine.

The researchers studied 268 adult dogs recruited at animal clinics around Zealand and the Capital Region of Denmark. Of the pets recruited, 20% were either heavy or obese.

“Oftentimes, people don’t consider their dog’s weight status to be a problem. And this might contribute to a dog’s being overweight. But being heavy or obese does have a great impact on dog health – which on average results in a shortened lifespan”, according to bioethics professor and article co-author, Peter Sandøe, of the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Food and Resource Economics.

Previous studies have shown that on average, heavy dogs live 1.3 years less than dogs on restrictive diets and that part of the explanation may be an earlier development of osteoarthritis with the heavier weight.

Castration triples the risk of being heavy or obese

The researchers also looked into how castration and sterilization can be risk factors in relation to dog weight. The study shows that castrated male dogs have three times as high a risk of being heavy or obese compared to intact dogs. On the other hand, the study demonstrated that sterilization has no impact on weight in female dogs.  Whether they are intact or not, female dogs, have an increased risk of being heavy compared with intact males.

“When males are castrated, they face just as high of a risk of becoming overweight as females. Castration seems to decrease the ability to regulate the appetite in male dogs and at the same time, it might also decrease the incentive to exercise which results in an increased risk of becoming overweight. Therefore, an owner should be careful about how they feed their dog after it has been castrated,” says Bjørnvad.

Sandøe adds: “They might even want to consider not neutering. As long as there are no runaway females in the area, there are in most cases no reason to neuter.”

The researchers hope that this new knowledge raises awareness about canine weight among veterinarians and dog owners, and that it contributes to better obesity prevention and treatment strategies by identifying focus areas for intervention.

Source:  University of Copenhagen media release

Research reveals overweight dogs may live shorter lives

New research from the University of Liverpool and Mars Petcare’s WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition reveals overweight dogs are more likely to have shorter lives than those at ideal body weights.

Results from the study, conducted retrospectively across two decades and published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, revealed the lifespan of dogs that were overweight was up to two and a half years shorter when compared to ideal-weight dogs.

fat bulldog

The study examined more than 50,000 dogs across 12 of the most popular dog breeds. The effect of being overweight was seen in all breeds, although the magnitude of the effect differed, ranging from between five months less for male German Shepherds to two years and six months less for male Yorkshire Terriers.

Poorer quality of life

It is estimated that over a quarter of households (26%) in the UK and nearly half in the US (47.6%) own a dog. However despite our affection for canine companions, concern is growing that many pet owners are unaware of the serious health implications of dogs carrying extra weight. Pet obesity is steadily on the rise, with latest figures estimating one in three dogs and cats in the U.S. is overweight.

Although the study did not examine the reasons behind the extra pounds in dogs, feeding habits are thought to play a role in pet obesity. According to a recent Better Cities For Pets survey , more than half (54%) of cat and dog owners always or often give their pet food if they beg for it, and nearly a quarter (22%) of cat and dog owners sometimes overfeed their pet to keep them happy.

Study co-author and Professor of Small Animal Medicine at the University of Liverpool Alex German, said: “Owners are often unaware that their dog is overweight, and many may not realise the impact that it can have on health. What they may not know is that, if their beloved pet is too heavy, they are more likely to suffer from other problems such as joint disease, breathing issues, and certain types of cancer, as well as having a poorer quality of life. These health and wellbeing issues can significantly impact how long they live.

“For many owners, giving food, particularly tasty table scraps and tidbits, is the way we show affection for our pets. Being careful about what you feed your dog could go a long way to keeping them in good shape and enabling them to be around for many years to come.
“Worryingly, it is estimated only one in five pet owners always measures how much food they are giving their pet, with four in five (87%) always or often simply estimating the amount of food they think their pet needs at each serving.”

About the Study

The University of Liverpool and WALTHAM study was a retrospective, observational cohort study that leveraged demographic, geographic and clinical data from dogs that received care at BANFIELD® Pet Hospitals between April 1994 and September 2015. Data were available from 50,787 dogs across 12 of the most popular family breeds: Dachshund, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, American Cocker Spaniel, Beagle, Boxer, Chihuahua, Pit Bull Terrier, Pomeranian, Shih Tzu, and Yorkshire Terrier. For each breed, the lifespan dogs whose owners reported them to be overweight and those in optimal body condition was compared.

As the largest general-veterinary practice in the world, Banfield has more than 1,000 hospitals across the United States and Puerto Rico comprised of veterinary teams who are committed to providing high-quality veterinary care for more than three million pets annually. The data extracted for this study included demographic (breed, sex, neuter status and date of birth) and geographic (latitude and longitude of the owner’s postcode) variables, plus data collected during in-clinic visits (date of visit, bodyweight and if available body condition), and date of death. Pedigree status and date of birth are both owner-reported parameters and were not verified by veterinary staff.

Source:  University of Liverpool

Dogs could be more similar to humans than we thought

Dog and human gut microbiomes have more similar genes and responses to diet than we previously thought, according to a study published in the open access journal, Microbiome.

Canine Microbiome

The canine microbiome is quite similar to that of humans. Credit: © Kar Tr / Fotolia

Dr Luis Pedro Coelho and colleagues from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, in collaboration with Nestlé Research, evaluated the gut microbiome of two dog breeds and found that the gene content of the dogs microbiome showed many similarities to the human gut microbiome, and was more similar to humans than the microbiome of pigs or mice.

Dr Luis Pedro Coelho, corresponding author of the study, commented: “We found many similarities between the gene content of the human and dog gut microbiomes. The results of this comparison suggest that we are more similar to man’s best friend than we originally thought.”

The researchers found that changes in the amount of protein and carbohydrates in the diet had a similar effect on the microbiota of dogs and humans, independent of the dog’s breed or sex. The microbiomes of overweight or obese dogs were found to be more responsive to a high protein diet compared to microbiomes of lean dogs; this is consistent with the idea that healthy microbiomes are more resilient.

Dr Luis Pedro Coelho, commented: “These findings suggest that dogs could be a better model for nutrition studies than pigs or mice and we could potentially use data from dogs to study the impact of diet on gut microbiota in humans, and humans could be a good model to study the nutrition of dogs.

“Many people who have pets consider them as part of the family and like humans, dogs have a growing obesity problem. Therefore, it is important to study the implications of different diets.”

The researchers investigated how diet interacted with the dog gut microbiome with a randomized controlled trial using a sample of 64 dogs, half of which were beagles and half were retrievers, with equal numbers of lean and overweight dogs. The dogs were all fed the same base diet of commercially available dog food for four weeks then they were randomized into two groups; one group consumed a high protein, low carb diet and the other group consumed a high carb, low protein diet for four weeks. A total of 129 dog stool samples were collected at four and eight weeks. The researchers then extracted DNA from these samples to create the dog gut microbiome gene catalogue containing 1,247,405 genes. The dog gut gene catalogue was compared to existing gut microbiome gene catalogues from humans, mice and pigs to assess the similarities in gene content and how the gut microbiome responds to changes in diet.

The authors caution that while humans and dogs host very similar microbes, they are not exactly the same microbes, but very closely related strains of the same species.

Source:  Science Daily

Pet obesity

October 12th is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day in the USA.  Pet obesity is a ‘first world’ problem; I often see dogs in my practice that are overweight or obese.

This handy obesity chart gives you an idea of how to score your dog’s (and cat’s) body condition:

Layout 1

A vet check is always advisable before starting your dog on a weight loss programme.  In my experience, weight loss isn’t just about dietary changes.  Massage and stretching combined with exercise can help your dog feel  better and move more freely – meaning more calories are burned to assist with any reduction in food intake.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Pet exposure may reduce allergies and obesity

If you need a reason to become a dog lover, how about their ability to help protect kids from allergies and obesity?

A new University of Alberta study showed that babies from families with pets—70 per cent of which were dogs—showed higher levels of two types of microbes associated with lower risks of allergic disease and obesity.

Puppy licking a baby's face

A dog licking a baby’s face. Credit: © Christin Lola / Fotolia

But don’t rush out to adopt a furry friend just yet.

“There’s definitely a critical window of time when gut immunity and microbes co-develop, and when disruptions to the process result in changes to gut immunity,” said Anita Kozyrskyj, a U of A pediatric epidemiologist and one of the world’s leading researchers on gut microbes—microorganisms or bacteria that live in the digestive tracts of humans and animals.

The latest findings from Kozyrskyj and her team’s work on fecal samples collected from infants registered in the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development study build on two decades of research that show children who grow up with dogs have lower rates of asthma.

The theory is that exposure to dirt and bacteria early in life—for example, in a dog’s fur and on its paws—can create early immunity, though researchers aren’t sure whether the effect occurs from bacteria on the furry friends or from human transfer by touching the pets, said Kozyrskyj.

Her team of 12, including study co-author and U of A post-doctoral fellow Hein Min Tun, take the science one step closer to understanding the connection by identifying that exposure to pets in the womb or up to three months after birth increases the abundance of two bacteria, Ruminococcus and Oscillospira, which have been linked with reduced childhood allergies and obesity, respectively.

The abundance of these two bacteria were increased twofold when there was a pet in the house,” said Kozyrskyj, adding that the pet exposure was shown to affect the gut microbiome indirectly—from dog to mother to unborn baby—during pregnancy as well as during the first three months of the baby’s life. In other words, even if the dog had been given away for adoption just before the woman gave birth, the healthy microbiome exchange could still take place.

The study also showed that the immunity-boosting exchange occurred even in three birth scenarios known for reducing immunity, as shown in Kozyrskyj’s previous work: C-section versus vaginal delivery, antibiotics during birth and lack of breastfeeding.

What’s more, Kozyrskyj’s study suggested that the presence of pets in the house reduced the likelihood of the transmission of vaginal GBS (group B Strep) during birth, which causes pneumonia in newborns and is prevented by giving mothers antibiotics during delivery.

It’s far too early to predict how this finding will play out in the future, but Kozyrskyj doesn’t rule out the concept of a “dog in a pill” as a preventive tool for allergies and obesity.

“It’s not far-fetched that the pharmaceutical industry will try to create a supplement of these microbiomes, much like was done with probiotics,” she said.

The study, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Allergy, Genes and Environment Network (AllerGen NCE), was published in the journal Microbiome, along with an editorial in Nature.

Source:  University of Alberta media release

Senior adults see benefits from dog ownership

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USA) recommends that adults of all ages should engage in 150 or more minutes of moderate physical activity per week. Among adults 60 years of age or more, walking is the most common form of leisure-time physical activity because it is self-paced, low impact and does not require equipment.

Johnson and Dog - senior dogs

Rebecca Johnson and her team determined that older adults who also are pet owners benefit from the bonds they form with their canine companions. Photo by University of Missouri

Researchers at the University of Missouri have determined that older adults who also are pet owners benefit from the bonds they form with their canine companions. Dog walking is associated with lower body mass index, fewer doctor visits, more frequent exercise and an increase in social benefits for seniors.

“Our study explored the associations between dog ownership and pet bonding with walking behavior and health outcomes in older adults,” said Rebecca Johnson, a professor at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, and the Millsap Professor of Gerontological Nursing in the Sinclair School of Nursing. “This study provides evidence for the association between dog walking and physical health using a large, nationally representative sample.”

The study analyzed 2012 data from the Health and Retirement study sponsored by the National Institute on Aging and the Social Security Administration. The study included data about human-animal interactions, physical activity, frequency of doctor visits and health outcomes of the participants.

“Our results showed that dog ownership and walking were related to increases in physical health among older adults,” said Johnson, who also serves as director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at MU. “These results can provide the basis for medical professionals to recommend pet ownership for older adults and can be translated into reduced health care expenditures for the aging population.”

Results from the study also indicated that people with higher degrees of pet bonding were more likely to walk their dogs and to spend more time walking their dogs each time than those who reported weaker bonds. Additionally, the study showed that pet walking offers a means to socialize with pet owners and others.

Retirement communities also could be encouraged to incorporate more pet-friendly policies such as including dog walking trails and dog exercise areas so that their residents could have access to the health benefits, Johnson said.

Source:  University of Missouri media release