Investigation into risk factors for overweight status and the use of behaviour change interventions for weight management in dogs

Quarmby, Caroline (2022) Investigation into risk factors for overweight status and the use of behaviour change interventions for weight management in dogs. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The prevalence of overweight dogs is increasing in the UK, compromising their health and welfare and predisposing them to conditions such as arthritis and heart disease.

A scoping review to appraise existing literature on overweight status and obesity in dogs identified three main research areas: risk factors for dogs being overweight or obese (n=10), consequences of dogs being overweight or obese and/or benefits of weight loss (n=27) and methods of weight management in dogs (n=48). There were relatively few studies on risk factors for dogs being overweight, so this area was investigated further. Risk factors for overweight status were compared across three different study populations: Guide Dogs’ working dogs, Guide Dogs’ breeding stock and pet dogs of the breeds used by Guide Dogs (GD). The results of these studies revealed that most risk factors for overweight status in these breeds were related to owner behaviour, particularly the use of treats. Feeding routines, amount of exercise and monitoring the dog’s weight were also associated with the dog’s weight status.

Drawing on those findings and behaviour change theories, a behaviour change intervention for new Guide Dog Owners (GDO) was developed. Part of this intervention utilised Protection Motivation Theory, the wish to avoid a negative outcome from a potential threat. A study was conducted to investigate whether the risk of a guide dog becoming overweight could be predicted from its behaviour around food. This work found only a weak correlation between the dog’s food interest and its weight status. New GDO were informed of their dog’s food interest and given strategies to assist with managing their dog’s weight based on previously identified risk factors. These GDO (n=22), along with a control group of GDO (n=36) who received only standard GD weight management advice, were interviewed six months after matching with their guide dog. Comparison of self-reported behaviours between the two groups suggested that the intervention succeeded in changing GDO behaviour around feeding and treating their dog. The follow-up period was too short to allow evaluation of the effect of the intervention on the dog’s weight status.

This thesis has identified and synthesised existing evidence around overweight status and obesity in dogs, produced new evidence to show that owner behaviours around feeding, exercise and monitoring their dog’s weight are important risk factors for GD breeds being overweight, and investigated the short-term impact of an intervention based around these risk factors. Further work is required to investigate whether similar interventions will be successful in changing owner behaviour and/or improving weight management in pet dogs but the findings of this thesis have highlighted key areas for potential implementation within Guide Dogs and investigation in the wider dog population.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: England, Gary
Freeman, Sarah
Millar, Kate
Keywords: overweight dogs, obesity in dogs, weight management
Subjects: S Agriculture > SF Animal culture
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Veterinary Medicine and Science
Item ID: 69608
Depositing User: Quarmby, Caroline
Date Deposited: 24 Aug 2023 14:39
Last Modified: 24 Aug 2023 14:39

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