Postcard: Raising awareness of pet obesity at Crufts

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Professor Alex German and Georgia Woods, from the University's Weight Management Clinic, attended Crufts this weekend to help raise awareness of pet obesity.

"A key role of the Weight Management Clinic is to educate pet owners and the veterinary community on the prevalence and risks associates with pet obesity, so we were delighted to be invited by Royal Canin to attend Crufts 2018 to do just that.

Recently, we had highlighted our concerns over the current trends in pet obesity in a letter to the Veterinary Record, notably the increasing prevalence in growing dogs. Therefore, this was a great opportunity to interact with dog owners and breeders who are especially influential within the dog owning community.

Our main objectives were to help dog owners to recognise obesity and to inform them on the importance of monitoring growth of their juvenile dogs, as risk factors for obesity can be spotted early through trends in growth. Royal Canin kindly allowed us to occupy part of their stand and, with the aid 'Cooper' - a purpose-engineered model dog, designed to help with body condition score training - we were able to engage many show visitors.

Throughout the four show days, we talked through features associated with ideal body shape, explained how this changed when dogs became overweight, and discussed the actions that can be taken were there are concerns.

We had great interactions with visitors and generated lots of enthusiasm for our fundamental campaign to promote obesity prevention.  If owners were accompanied by their dogs, we guided owners about how to score their own dog, and each owner took away a body condition score chart for use at home. Such interactions also gave us the opportunity to discuss strategies to help prevent weight gain, for example the use of puzzle feeders to slow eating speed and reduce food-seeking behaviour.  For owners who had recently acquired puppies, we discussed the new evidence-based growth charts, which are freely available and help to ensure optimal growth during a key stage of life.

This was the first time the team had the opportunity to undertake such activity and, given the success, we are already considering how we can expand this activity in the future."

[caption id="attachment_74863" align="alignleft" width="585"] Georgia and Alex at Crufts 2018[/caption]