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Readability and content of online pet obesity information

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  • 1 1Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.
  • | 2 2Clinical Studies, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To assess the readability of pet obesity information, document the presence and absence of types of pet obesity information, and perform comparisons between dog and cat obesity information content on websites.

SAMPLE

68 websites containing pet obesity content.

PROCEDURES

Websites were systematically retrieved with a search engine and predefined search terms and phrases. For each website, pet obesity information was scored by use of 2 established readability tools: the simple measure of gobbledygook (SMOG) index and Flesch-Kincaid (FK) readability test. A directed content analysis was conducted with a codebook that assessed the presence or absence of 103 variables across 5 main topics related to pet obesity on each website.

RESULTS

The mean reading grade levels determined with the SMOG index and FK readability test were 16.61 and 9.07, respectively. Instructions for weight measurement and body condition scoring were found infrequently, as were nonmodifiable risk factors. There was a greater focus on addressing obesity through dietary changes than through increasing physical activity. Few websites recommended regular follow-up appointments with veterinarians. Weight management information and the emphasis on owners’ commitment to achieve their pet's weight loss targets differed among dog- and cat-focused websites.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Results indicated that pet obesity information on the studied websites was largely inaccessible to pet owners owing to the associated high reading grade levels. Readers of that information would benefit from clarification of information gaps along with provision of guidance regarding navigating online information and counseling on the importance of nutritional and dietary reassessments for individual pets performed by veterinarians.

Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to Dr. Khosa (dkhosa@uoguelph.ca).