Pet owners necessarily play an active role in determining their pets' diet, and their nutritional choices are likely to be influenced by numerous factors, including their knowledge of the nutritional needs of their pets; their perceptions regarding the nutritional value, wholesomeness, and safety of feed ingredients; their thoughts about the pet food industry; and their sources of information regarding the dietary management of their pets. Communicating effectively with owners about nutrition and dietary management of companion animals can be difficult, particularly when the goal is to persuade a pet owner to alter feeding practices. Circumstances frequently arise in which a
More than 60% of households in the United States own at least 1 pet, which accounts for > 140 million cats and dogs.1 Similarly, more than 60% of Australian households have at least 1 dog or cat.2 Most pet dogs and cats in the United States, Australia, and other developed countries are fed commercial foods.1,3–6 The widespread use of nutritionally complete and balanced commercial diets has been cited as a contributing factor for longer, healthier life spans in pets.7 However, there appears to be increasing interest among veterinarians and pet owners regarding
Objective—To estimate disease prevalence among dogs and cats in the United States and Australia and proportions of dogs and cats that receive therapeutic diets or dietary supplements.
Sample Population—Dog and cat owners located in 5 geographic areas.
Procedures—A telephone survey was administered to dog and cat owners.
Results—Of 18,194 telephone calls that were made, 1,104 (6%) were to individuals who owned at least 1 dog or cat and agreed to participate. Information was collected for 635 dogs and 469 cats. Only 14 (1%) respondents indicated that their pet was unhealthy, but 176 (16%) indicated that their pets had 1 or more diseases. The most common diseases were musculo-skeletal, dental, and gastrointestinal tract or hepatic disease. Many owners (n = 356) reported their pets were overweight or obese, but only 3 reported obesity as a health problem in their pets. Owners of 28 (2.5%) animals reported that they were feeding a therapeutic diet, with the most common being diets for animals with renal disease (n = 5), reduced-calorie diets (5), and reduced-fat diets (4). Owners of 107 of 1,076 (9.9%) animals reported administering dietary supplements to their pets. Multivitamins (n = 53 animals), chondroprotective agents (22), and fatty acids (13) were the most common dietary supplements used.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggest that most dogs and cats reported by their owners to have a health problem were not being fed a therapeutic diet. In addition, the rate of dietary supplement use was lower than that reported for people.