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Downes MJ, Devitt C, Downes M, More SJ.2014. Understanding the context for pet obesity; self-reported beliefs and factors influencing pet feeding and exercise behaviour among pet owners. PeerJ PrePrints2:e715v1https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.715v1
Pet obesity contributes to increased risk of various diseases, such as cancer and diabetes mellitus as well as worsening of orthopaedic problems, and a reduction in survival rate. Changes in feeding regimes and increased amounts of exercise have been an important component of weight management programs. This study identifies the self-reported beliefs and factors that influence owner behaviour around feeding and exercising their pet. Pet owners were recruited through six different private veterinary practices (three city practices; two in regional towns; and one in a rural area).
Seven focus groups were conducted with 43 participants in total. Feeding one’s pet is influenced by beliefs about pet specific needs and pet food and pet health, pet owners’ perceived control over the feeding regime, and the implications for feeding for the pet owner. Treats are used in the absence of owner control over pet begging and emotional attachment, and to influence pet behaviour. Pet exercise is influenced by beliefs about pet specific exercise needs, and the implications of exercising one’s pet for the pet owner.
Beliefs, and barriers to appropriate feeding and exercise are useful in explaining pet owners’ behaviour and are; associated with the level of control over the feeding regime, control relating to pet behaviour, and the perceived ease of feeding and exercise. Understanding owner behaviours on feeding and exercise allows for a more targeted approach to preventing and treating pet obesity.
This paper is the first to examine owner attitudes on pet obesity in Ireland and one of few to take a personal owner approach. This paper on pet obesity will be a submission to PeerJ for review.