Weight loss study in obese dogs shows association with health markers

New study reveals that weight loss in obese dogs is associated with improvement of several health markers

  • In parallel, another study finds that one third of dog owners do not recognise when their pet is overweight
  • In advance of Pet Obesity Awareness Day, Purina shares insights on some of the studies backed by the Company as a reminder of the role that behavioural science can play in supporting pets and their owners to improve the quality of life for pets.

A new study[1] backed by Purina shows that weight loss in obese dogs is associated with significant improvements of health measures like metabolic status, cardiovascular parameters, life quality and immune-regulation, adding further evidence to the importance of maintaining a healthy weight in pets.

Weight loss in pets is already known to have benefits including reducing the risk of arthritis, a healthier coat and an improved quality of life, but this research also reveals the positive effect on the immune system

This new evidence comes as pet obesity risks are being exacerbated by global lockdowns. From 2015 to 2018, incidence of obesity and overweight classifications in dogs has grown by 2%, and by 1.3% in cats[2]. This may worsen in global lockdowns due to changes in daily routines for owners and pets that impact on pets’ feeding behaviours and exercising activities.

In the study, a cohort of 11 obese dogs were put through a six-month weight loss programme. When compared with a control group of dogs of a healthy weight, the obese dogs showed clinical improvements on a number of key indicators related to immune function, such as reduced tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α and interleukin (IL)-6, known to impair insulin action in metabolic tissues but also favour cancer development in humans.



Hugues du Plessis, Pet Obesity Prevention Manager, at Purina said: “Preventing pet obesity is a major focus at Purina. We not only want to be providing pet owners with information on the benefits of a healthy pet lifestyle, but we also want to help them achieve it. This is why we are working with partner organisations to understand how behavioural science can be used to support owners, from the recognition of an issue, to the changes that will make a difference. ”

The importance of educating owners is evidenced in another study[3], conducted by Purina in collaboration with experts from five universities[4], that revealed 33% of pet owners could not correctly identify when their pet was overweight.

Including 3,339 dog owners across five countries – France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United Kingdom -, in addition to showing that owners often struggle to accurately assess whether their dogs are a healthy weight, this new research also found that owners with healthy weight dogs were more likely to have support from friends for exercising and to understand that owning a dog can have costs. These findings add to the knowledge on the root causes of pet obesity and reinforce the need to keep exploring solutions focused on prevention and treatment.

In fact, prioritising pet health and providing owners with support from the start of pet ownership is essential, as evidenced in a landmark Purina study that showed maintaining an ideal body weight from puppyhood throughout life can increase the lifespan of the dog by 1.8 years[5], and significantly delayed the onset of chronic diseases associated with aging, like osteoarthritis[6].

As part of Purina’s purpose to ‘create richer lives for pets and the people who love them’, the Company is committed to helping reduce the risk of pet obesity through its continuous work with partners across Europe.

[1] Piantedosi D, Palatucci AT, Giovazzino A, et al. Effect of a Weight Loss Program on Biochemical and Immunological Profile, Serum Leptin Levels, and Cardiovascular Parameters in Obese Dogs. Front Vet Sci. 2020;7:398. Published 2020 Aug 6. doi:10.3389/fvets.2020.00398

[2] APOP – www.petobesityprevention.org

[3] Webb, T. L., du Plessis, H., Christian, H., Raffan, E., Rohlf, V., & White, G. A. (2020). Understanding obesity among companion dogs: New measures of owner’s beliefs and behaviour and associations with body condition scores. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 180, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.prevetmed.2020.105029

[4] The University of Sheffield, UK; Telethon Kids Institute, University of Western Australia; Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science-Metabolic Research Laboratories, University of Cambridge, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, UK; La Trobe University, Australia; University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus, UK

[5] Kealy, R. D., Lawler, D. F., Ballam, J. M., Mantz, S. L., Biery, D. N., Greeley, E. H.,…& Stowe, H. D. (2002). Effects of diet restriction on life span and age-related changes in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 220(9), 1315–1320. doi:10.2460/javma.2002.220.1315

[6] Lawler, D. F., Larson, B. T., Ballam, J. M., Smith, G. K., Biery, D. N., Evans, R. H.,… & Kealy, R. D. (2008). Diet restriction and ageing in the dog: Major observations over two decades. British Journal of Nutrition, 99(4): 793–805. doi:10.1017/S0007114507871686