Over a third of dog owners admit their pooch is overweight, study reveals

A new study from Natural Instinct reveals that nearly half of dog owners have overindulged their pooches since the start of the pandemic.

Increased time at home has led to giving dogs extra treats, with 44% of respondents revealing they have fed their dog more treats every week, and 14% have been spoiling their dog daily.

The research shows that French Bulldog owners are the most likely to feed extra treats (70%), while owners of Springer Spaniels (52%) are the least likely to dish out tasty rewards.

Of the 2,000 dog owners surveyed, 18% said their dog had put on weight due to extra treats, whilst 12% said their dog had put on weight as a result on going on less walks, which can be attributed to those who have been shielding due to the pandemic.

In a bid to help curb dog obesity this Spring, Natural Instinct is launching the ‘Fitness Furst’ Diet Club to provide expert opinion and advice to owners whose dogs need to ‘shred those extra doggy pounds’.

The club will be hosted by a vet and animal behaviourist and will include a weigh in, support on feeding, diet and fitness advice for members, and more.

Lack of knowledge is a key factor in the battle against obesity, the data finds, as nearly two thirds revealed that they did not know the correct portion sizes for their dog, confessing that they always estimate meal sizes. The younger age group of 16-29 year olds are the least likely to know correct portion size, as well as West Highland terrier owners, with 83% estimating what they feed to their dog.

Of those surveyed, 21% also said they were unaware of the correct weight for the breed and size of their dog. The over 60’s were the least aware of the correct weight (28%), while the survey also found that Shih Tzu (29.1%) and Pug owners (29.8%) were least likely to know how much their dog should weigh.

Vet Richard Doyle of Wylie Vets comments: “We encounter a high number of dogs who are overweight, and it does, in many cases, come down to the knowledge of owners as to what they should or shouldn’t be feeding and importantly how much. A good place to start is to look at what dogs have evolved to eat over many millions of years. Dogs being hunters and scavengers, means meat forms a major part of the balanced diet. This is a diet high in animal protein (as opposed to plant protein) and fat. This evolutionary diet is low in carbohydrates, particularly sugars and starch.

“As Vets, we find that dogs fed plant-based proteins and high carbohydrate diets are at much higher risk of developing obesity (and many other modern diseases such as skin disease, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer and diabetes). It is also very much harder to lose weight on a diet based on plant proteins and carbohydrates. Compounding the lack of knowledge around feeding, 1 in 4 owners said they only know some of the signs to tell if their dog is overweight, with 1 in 7 (14%) saying they did not know any of the signs.

“Excess weight will be more obvious in certain breeds of dog such as Dachshunds, Pugs, French Bulldogs and Staffordshire Bullterriers. There is a common misconception that certain breeds are more likely to put on weight than others such as Labradors loving their food, however this is not the case. No dog should be overweight. It is really quite simple, first we need to understand what fuel is best for our precious pooches. Then we need to work out how much fuel they need. Then we need to understand how the engine works – for instance how exercise and hormones control how our pets use the fuel we give them.”

Nearly two thirds (63%) said they would benefit from advice and guidance on helping their dog lose weight. Over half said they want expert tips on general health, fitness and feeding, while over one third (35%) want a clear and structured diet plan.

Richard, alongside other canine experts, will be hosting free online sessions as part of the launch of the Natural Instinct ‘Fitness Furst’ diet club, for those looking for support and advice. To sign up pet owners should email fitnessfurst@naturalinstinct.com

How to tell if your dog is overweight:

  • You cannot feel their ribs.
  • Their weight is higher than normal.
  • They do not have a prominent abdomen.
  • They do not have a defined waist.
  • Lack of interest in physical activity.
  • Excessive panting.

Dogs breeds most likely to be fed extra treats:

  • French Bulldog (79%)
  • Chihuahua (74%)
  • Cockapoo (72%)
  • Dachshund (71%)
  • Cocker Spaniel (71%)
  • King Charles Spaniel (70%)
  • Labrador (69%)
  • Pug (68%)
  • Shih Tzu (66%)
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier (64%)