The Blog

Should Owners of Obese Dogs Go to Jail?

Government Barking Up The Wrong Tree On Fat Pets says Catherine O’Driscoll, Canine Health Concern

New codes of practice state that people who refuse to put seriously fat pets on a diet could be prosecuted under the Animal Welfare Act, facing a fine of up to £20,000 or 12 months in jail. Proposed legislation fails to take into account the role of the pet food manufacturing industry, which sells junk food laden with unnecessary grains and sugars. Junk food causes obesity in pets.

The result of poor quality junk foods are just the same for pets as they are for humans. You end up with obese but malnourished individuals, prone to chronic illness and early death.

Dogs and cats are carnivores. If left to their own devices, their diet would consist of small to medium-sized prey. However, the pet food industry ensures that dogs and cats now eat industrial waste, laden with grains and sugars. According to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association website, “The industry’s use of by-products from the human food and agricultural industries prevents the need for, and the costs of, disposal.” Pet food saves on landfill sites – which is great for the environment, but not necessarily good for pets. (1)

In the natural world, dogs and cats eat muscle meat, bones, organs, and only a small quantity of grains and vegetables. Pet food, however, typically contains snouts, feet, spleens, skin – inferior parts of animals that cannot go into the human food chain. Not wholefoods. The natural diet for dogs would consist of about 60%+ raw muscle meat, offal and bones, and the percentage would be even higher for cats. The balance in manufactured pet food does not match this criteria.

According to the PFMA web site, “Dogs and cats have no absolute dietary requirement for carbohydrates”, but admits that cereals such as corn, rice, wheat, and barley are added to pet food. Some grains might be acceptable, although not necessary – but many pet foods are mostly grain-based. (2) The PFMA also admits that sugar is added to dog and cat food. (3) Dogs and cats have no dietary requirement for refined sugar.

“Of course animals are going to be obese if their ‘energy’ requirements are met by grains and sugars – foods that they are not designed to eat in large quantity,” says Catherine O’Driscoll of Canine Health Concern. “They are also going to be malnourished, because they’re not getting the balance of nutrients they need. Since the introduction of junk pet food dogs and cats are suffering life-long chronic illness, and dying years before their time.”

“Unfortunately,” says vet Richard Allport, “the pet food industry unduly influences the veterinary profession. Some pet food manufacturers even pay the salaries of lecturers who teach in veterinary teaching colleges. This is reprehensible. It unfairly influences vets, who in turn unwittingly mislead their clients. The result is a chronically malnourished yet obese pet population.”

Dr Michael Fox, formerly chief vet at the Humane Society, says: “Processed carbohydrates cause a periodic ‘sugar rush’ every time the dog or cat eats. This damages the liver and the pancreas, resulting in the conversion of sugar into body fat. The ‘sugar rush’ and insulin surge (until the pancreas becomes exhausted) make many dogs and cats constantly hungry, so they quickly become obese. Owners think their pets love the dry food because they always want to eat it.

“Animals who become overweight primarily as a result of the kinds of manufactured foods they are fed, rather than simply being over-fed and under-exercised, are likely to develop a host of health problems like diabetes, arthritis, skin disease, chronic inflammations, and infections like cystitis, gingivitis, and otitis, heart and liver disease, and cancer.”

If the government insists upon instigating legislation that penalises pet owners whilst ignoring the role of the multi-million pet food industry, it does a disservice to pets and their owners. It is targeting pet owners who have been misled by industry through massive advertising campaigns and veterinary misinformation.

The manufacturers of unhealthy foods for children are curtailed in their ability to propagandise their products to children. Canine Health Concern and its veterinary supporters suggest that the pet food industry needs such curtailment.

My name is Jasmine Kleine. I am a qualified vet nurse and a passionate animal advocate. I write professionally about pets and animal health.

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