Canadians spend more time surfing the web than playing with their pets

Canadians spend more time surfing the web than playing with their pets

A new research study of the state of pet health and wellness in Canada has found that the choices owners are making about their pets' nutrition and exercise could be affecting the length and quality of their pets' lives.

Canada's Pet Wellness Report; a research study of 1,000 Canadian dog or cat owners and 100 veterinarians, by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) provided a snapshot of pet health in Canada, including exercise, nutrition, veterinary care, life stage (age)-related needs and overall health status.

The study revealed that pet owners are missing the visible signs of common health issues such as obesity and dental disease that are key to their pets living longer, healthier lives.

"Overall, the research suggests that addressing the exercise, nutritional and dental care needs of pets is key to enhancing pet health and wellness in the country," said veterinarian and member of the CVMA Executive, Dr. Jim Berry.

Internet and channel surfing overshadow pet exercise time

According to the study, owners might not be making pet exercise a priority and as a result veterinarians are seeing the consequences:

  • On an average weekday, pet owners spend nearly twice as much time surfing the Internet (48 minutes) and three times as much time watching TV (79 minutes) as they do playing with/exercising their pets (25 minutes).
  • Even on the weekend, when pet owners might have more disposable time, they still spend an average of three times as much time per day watching TV (89 minutes) and far more time surfing the Internet (44 minutes) than playing with/exercising their pets (29 minutes).
  • Veterinarians believe that the majority of dogs (55 per cent) and cats (70 per cent) they see do not receive an adequate amount of exercise to maintain good health.

"Pet owners need a better understanding of the health implications of inadequate exercise of their pets and the importance of basic decisions, such as what and how to feed them," says Dr. Berry. "Otherwise their pets might be at risk for a range of broader health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes and mobility issues."

Dishing the goods on obesity

The findings suggest pet owners also need to adjust how they evaluate what food to buy for their pets and how they feed them, since their choices could have weighty consequences:

  • When it comes to pet food shopping, veterinarians believe pet owners consider the price and best value offered by a pet food over the food's ability to meet their pets' health or life stage-related needs.
  • Pet owners admit that they are nearly twice as likely to buy a pet food based on what their pet likes to eat (60 per cent) vs. what will actually meet their health needs (33 per cent).
  • Just two in 10 (18 per cent) pet owners feed their pets the amount recommended on the pet food package and only 17 per cent closely review the ingredient information.
  • Overall pet owners (44.5 per cent) are most likely to feed their pets by "making food available to their pet(s) at all times", which is more common among cat owners (57 per cent) than dog owners (32 per cent).

Furthermore, the research indicates that veterinarians are seeing the consequences of poor decisions about pet nutrition:

  • Veterinarians (63 per cent) are most likely to cite weight control as one of the most important things pet owners can do to increase the length and quality of their pets' lives, yet only one in 10 pet owners proactively ask veterinarians about nutrition.
  • Veterinarians (65 per cent) say overfeeding is by far the most common mistake pet owners make when feeding their dogs or cats.
  • Veterinarians say pet owners are often surprised when their pets are diagnosed as obese.

Missing the signs of health issues

One of the most compelling findings from the study is that pet owners might be missing the obvious signs of health issues in their pets.

Obesity and dental disease are the two most commonly diagnosed health problems dog and cat owners are surprised to learn about during veterinary exams.

Meanwhile, veterinarians consider a pet's weight, clean teeth and fresh breath among the best indicators of good overall pet health that pet owners can observe at home.

About the research

Canada's Pet Wellness Report is based on the findings of an Ipsos Reid poll conducted between April 18 and April 27, 2011, on behalf of the CVMA and Hill's Pet Nutrition. A sample of 1,043 pet owners from Ipsos' Canadian online panel was interviewed online.

A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100% response rate would have an estimated margin of error of +/- 3.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

A survey of practicing Canadian veterinarians was also conducted using a sample provided by the CVMA.