[Feeding of dogs and cats in Germany]

N Becker, N Dillitzer, C Sauter-Louis, E Kienzle
Tierärztliche Praxis. Ausgabe K, Kleintiere/Heimtiere 2012, 40 (6): 391-7

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to determine epidemiological data on the feeding of dogs and cats in Germany.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: A total of 865 dog owners and 243 cat owners were interviewed using standardised questionnaires about their animals (age, sex, weight, body condition, health) and feeding, including treats, additional supplements and reasons for food changes, together with data on the pet owners (age, sex, education, profession). The interviews took place in the waiting rooms of veterinarians, in dog schools, animal shelters and public parks as well as via the internet. Body condition scoring (BCS, scale 1-9) was performed separately by the pet owners and the interviewer.

RESULTS: The mean age of dogs was 4.8 years and of cats 6.8 years. The dogs' body weight ranged from 2.2kg (Pomeranian dog) to 95kg (Saint Bernard). The cats had a body weight from 2 to 11kg. Approximately 52% of dogs and cats were overweight (BCS6-9). Differences existed between the assessment by the owner and the interviewer. Many owners underestimated the body condition, in particular, moderate overweight was not recognised (BCS6-7). Commercial food was exclusively used by 58% of dog and 90% of cat owners, while 35% and 10%, respectively, combined these with additional feed. Nearly 8% of dog and <1% of cat owners fed their pets with home-made diets. Elderly (>7 years) and sick dogs received home-made diets more often. Older pet owners (≥ 46 years) fed their pets home-made diets more frequently. The education and profession of owners did not affect the percentage of home-made diets. There was no effect of the type of diet on BCS. Owners with a lower education as well as housewives and pensioners more often had overweight pets. Older owners and working owners gave treats less frequently. However, 95% of dogs and 65% of cats received treats.

CONCLUSION: Being overweight is the biggest dietary problem. In comparison to previous studies, the number of overweight pets has increased.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Pet owners should be advised early on excess weight, because the onset of being overweight is often not recognised. The majority of pet owners gives treats. Diets for the treatment of disease need to take this into account and offer solutions for treats.

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