Hill’s Pet Nutrition Canadian Pet Wellness Report-Guest Post

I love our cat Racer, but I never really thought about how much time I spent with her until recently. I never thought a cat needed exercise, but according to most veterinarians, cats need exercise just like dogs and spending time playing with your cat can be beneficial to both your health and the animal’s. I know that many of my readers have pets of their own and so I wanted to pass along the results of a recent survey conducted on behalf of Hill’s Pet Nutrition. Many of the results were surprising to me, especially the negative scores pet owners in the Prairies received about many pet health issues. Why not check it out and see if maybe your special friend could use a little more playtime?

Hill’s Pet Nutrition Canadian Pet Wellness Report

Internet and channel surfing overshadow pet exercise time

According to the study, owners might not be making pet exercise a priority and as a result veterinarians are seeing the consequences:

  • On an average weekday, pet owners spend nearly twice as much time surfing the Internet (48 minutes) and three times as much time watching TV (79 minutes) as they do playing with/exercising their pets (25 minutes).
  • Even on the weekend, when pet owners might have more disposable time, they still spend an average of three times as much time per day watching TV (89 minutes) and far more time surfing the Internet (44 minutes) than playing with/exercising their pets (29 minutes).
  • Veterinarians believe that the majority of dogs (55%) and cats (70%) they see do not receive an adequate amount of exercise to maintain good health.

“Pet owners need a better understanding of the health implications of inadequate exercise of their pets and the importance of basic decisions, such as what and how to feed them,” says Dr. Berry. “Otherwise their pets might be at risk for a range of broader health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes and mobility issues.”

Dishing the goods on obesity

The findings suggest pet owners also need to adjust how they evaluate what food to buy for their pets and how they feed them, since their choices could have weighty consequences:

  • When it comes to pet food shopping, veterinarians believe pet owners consider the price and best value offered by a pet food over the food’s ability to meet their pets’ health or life stage-related needs.
  • Pet owners admit that they are nearly twice as likely to buy a pet food based on what their pet likes to eat (60%) vs. what will actually meet their health needs (33%).
  • Just two in 10 (18%) pet owners feed their pets the amount recommended on the pet food package and only 17% closely review the ingredient information.
  • Overall pet owners (44.5%) are most likely to feed their pets by “making food available to their pet(s) at all times”, which is more common among cat owners (57%) than dog owners (32%).

Furthermore, the research indicates that veterinarians are seeing the consequences of poor decisions about pet nutrition:

  • Veterinarians (63%) are most likely to cite weight control as one of the most important things pet owners can do to increase the length and quality of their pets’ lives, yet only one in 10 pet owners proactively ask veterinarians about nutrition.
  • Veterinarians (65%) say overfeeding is by far the most common mistake pet owners make when feeding their dogs or cats.
  • Veterinarians say pet owners are often surprised when their pets are diagnosed as obese.

Missing the Signs of Health Issues

One of the most compelling findings from the study is that pet owners might be missing the obvious signs of health issues in their pets. Obesity and dental disease are the two most commonly diagnosed health problems dog and cat owners are surprised to learn about during veterinary exams. Meanwhile, veterinarians consider a pet’s weight, clean teeth and fresh breath among the best indicators of good overall pet health that pet owners can observe at home.

Big health issues on the Prairies

The research revealed that only half (51%) of dog owners and 58% of cat owners say their pets are in perfect health. Other pet owners claim their pets suffer from a range of health issues with weight problems near or at the top of the list for cats and dogs. One of the most surprising findings was the extent to which pets in Manitoba and Saskatchewan are the most likely to suffer from a host of health issues:

  • Cat owners on the Prairies were by far the most likely to say their pets are overweight (32.7% vs. national average of 19%) and to suffer from allergies (10% vs. national average of 2.8%), arthritis (6% vs. national average of 2.8%) and a dry coat/flaky skin (12% vs. national average of 7.5%).
  • Dog owners on the Prairies were by far the most likely to say their pets suffer from a poor/picky appetite (11.6% vs. national average of 6%), digestive problems (11.6% vs. national average of 5.5%), dental disease (9% vs. national average of 4%) and low energy (9% vs. national average of 3.7%).
  • Pet owners on the Prairies are also the most likely to feed their pets canned/wet food, table scraps, home-prepared food and raw meat.
  • Pet owners on the Prairies are also most likely to buy their pet food from a mass merchandise store.

About the research

Canada’s Pet Wellness Report is based on the findings of an Ipsos Reid poll conducted between April 18 and April 27, 2011, on behalf of the CVMA and Hill’s Pet Nutrition. A sample of 1,043 pet owners from Ipsos’ Canadian online panel was interviewed online. A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100% response rate would have an estimated margin of error of +/- 3.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. A survey of practicing Canadian veterinarians was also conducted using a sample provided by the CVMA. A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100% response rate would have an estimated margin of error of +/- 9.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), in partnership with Hill’s Pet Nutrition, developed Canada’s Pet Wellness Report to help educate Canadians about how proper exercise, love and attention, nutrition and veterinary care can all help ensure pets live long, happy and healthy lives. Canada’s Pet Wellness Report can be downloaded at www.Hillspet.ca, www.canadianveterinarians.net and www.facebook.com/ScienceDietCanada

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