New Research Shows Potential Utility of Growth Standards to Monitor Healthy Weight in Puppies and May Help Identify Puppies at Risk for Obesity

New Research Shows Potential Utility of Growth Standards to Monitor Healthy Weight in Puppies and May Help Identify Puppies at Risk for Obesity

PR Newswire

WALTHAM-ON-THE-WOLDS, England, Sept. 23, 2020

PLOS ONE publishes study from the Waltham Petcare Science Institute tracking growth patterns of different groups of healthy and unhealthy weight dogs

WALTHAM-ON-THE-WOLDS, England, Sept. 23, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The ongoing pandemic has prompted an increase in the number of people around the world adopting pets. But with more than half of all pets in the US[1] and UK[2] considered to be overweight or have obesity, coupled with research showing that being in overweight condition can shorten a dog's lifespan by up to 2.5 years depending on breed, it's clear new owners need to start healthy habits early. New research published today in PLOS ONE highlights the potential utility of an easy-to-use tool owners and veterinarians can use to help keep puppies on track from the minute they find their forever home[3].

Recently, a series of evidence-based growth standards (charts), based on bodyweight, were developed for dogs across five different size categories. Researchers from the Waltham Petcare Science Institute, Banfield Pet Hospital, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health and Institute of Life Course and Medical Sciences, University of Liverpool conducted a study to compare the growth curves depicted by this set of standards with the patterns of growth in dogs that were healthy, had abnormal body condition, or had various diseases known to be associated with abnormal growth.

Growth standards (charts) are available for male and female dogs in 5 categories:

Analysing data from the ROYAL CANIN Research Center in France, the WALTHAM Petcare Science Institute in the UK and the Banfield Pet Hospital network in the US, the researchers found that 68 percent of dogs that developed obesity by 3 years of age grew faster than the growth standards predicted. In contrast, 49 percent of dogs that became underweight by 3 years gained weight slower than expected. These results suggest that the growth standards might be a useful tool for veterinarians to help monitor healthy growth in dogs starting from when they are puppies.

In humans, growth standards such as those created by the World Health Organization (WHO) are used to monitor the growth of children, by comparing an individual's pattern of growth with that of a healthy reference population. These standards can help health professionals identify growth disorders quickly and enable faster interventions. The results from this study suggest that these growth standards for dogs could be used in a similar way, helping pet owners and veterinarians track the weight of a dog and to intervene if its weight starts to creep up.

"Obesity is the major health concern facing our pets today," says Darren Logan, Head of Research at the Waltham Petcare Science Institute. "We developed the Puppy Growth Charts to help owners and veterinarians identify when puppies might be getting off track so they can act sooner to help prevent excess weight before it causes major health problems. This tool supports a positive step towards more preventive health for our companion animals and another way we are delivering on our purpose: A Better World for Pets™."

Researchers used age and body weight data to model growth. Deviations or crossings from the charted standard (centile line) during the growth phase was uncommon in healthy dogs, with less than 5% of dogs crossing two or more centile lines. These deviations were more frequent in dogs with abnormal growth patterns or at an unhealthy weight. The study showed that dogs that developed obesity by three years old, grew faster than the growth standards predicted with nearly 7 in 10 (68%) crossing two or more centile lines through weight gain.

Just like in humans, preventing obesity is easier than treating it. Research shows losing weight can also be hard for our canine friends. Study co-author and Professor of Small Animal Medicine at the University of Liverpool Alex German states, "We know optimal growth is crucial for the future health and wellbeing of dogs, as many of the health issues that appear during early life are associated with poor weight management. The results of this study suggest that these growth charts can identify healthy growth as well as patterns of growth signaling possible health problems. We hope that veterinarians and owners will find these evidence-based growth standards easy to use, helping puppies to keep in shape and starting them on the right path for their adult life."

The WALTHAM™ Puppy Growth Charts and a "how-to-use" video are available at www.waltham.com/resources/waltham-growth-charts.

About the research:

Recently, a series of evidence-based growth standards, based on bodyweight, were developed for male and female dogs across 5 different size categories. The aim of this study was to compare growth curves depicted by the standards with patterns of growth in dogs that were either healthy, had abnormal body condition, or had various diseases with the potential to affect growth. The data came from 2 research colonies in Europe (France and UK), and a large corporate network of primary care veterinary hospitals across the USA. Age and bodyweight data were used to model growth in healthy dogs, in dogs that became overweight or underweight by 3 years of age, and in dogs with diseases associated with altered growth. The study involved analysis of historical data from dogs housed at WALTHAM and Royal Canin pet centres, as well as data analysis of the anonymised records of client-owned dogs attending BANFIELD. Study protocols were reviewed and approved by either the WALTHAM ethical review committee or the Royal Canin Research Ethics Committee.

About Waltham Petcare Science Institute:

The WALTHAM Petcare Science Institute is a leading scientific authority in pet nutrition and wellbeing and has been advancing the frontiers of scientific research into the nutrition and health of companion animals for nearly 50 years. Located in Leicestershire, England, the renowned state-of-the-art science institute focuses on the nutritional and behavioural needs of pets and their benefits to humans, enabling the development of innovative products which meet these needs in a practical way. WALTHAM has pioneered many important breakthroughs in pet nutrition, and in collaboration with the world's foremost scientific institutes, supports leading Mars Petcare brands such as WHISKAS®, PEDIGREE®, CESAR®, SHEBA®, AQUARIAN® and the ROYAL CANIN brand. 

  1. Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) 11thannual survey. 
  2. German, AJ., Woods, GRT., Holden, SL., Brennan, L., Burke, C. (2018) Dangerous trends in pet obesity.Veterinary Record 182, 25
  3. Salt, C, Morris, PJ., Butterwick, R., Lund, EM., Cole, TJ., German, AJ. Plos One Journal. Comparison of growth patterns in healthy dogs and dogs in abnormal body condition using growth standards. September 2020.

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