New feeding guidelines are part Mars’ pet foods bid to reduce the weight of the nation’s pets.

Pedigree-branded dog food products will be the first of Mars’ pet foods in the UK to feature revised feeding guidelines in a bid to reduce the weight of the nation’s pets.

Feeding guidelinesThe manufacturer of brands including Royal Canin, Whiskas and Cesar has made the move to reduce the guideline daily amounts recommended on food packets in response to the rise in pet obesity, Vetsonline was told.

Products will be reformulated so that fewer calories will be given, but levels of essential nutrients remain optimum, explained Jo Gale, science and technical communications manager at Mars’ Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition.

Dr Gale told Vetsonline the company was “committed to making a difference to tackling obesity”, hence taking the lead on reducing daily feeding recommendations.

“We realised pets are more sedentary these days, and certainly since our feeding guidelines were first produced. This could be due to lifestyle, and perhaps dogs don’t get walked as much, or cats stay indoors more, so are not using as much energy.”

The revised guidance has reduced the daily calorific intake by around 15 per cent for dogs and five per cent for cats.

“It does mean that we’ll sell a lower volume of product, but the business is taking a hit for it as it’s about time the pet food industry did something,” Dr Gale added.

The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) has also taken steps to address the issues of over-feeding by undertaking research and working collaboratively to get the message across. A PFMA spokesman said: “Pet obesity is a real issue and there is a lot of good work being done by individual pet food companies, and the pet industry as a whole, to tackle the problem.”

“In 2009, PFMA launched the Obesity White Paper that looked in depth at causal factors of pet obesity, which highlighted regular over-feeding with human foods, in addition to daily pet food portions and misconceptions over what is a healthy body shape.

“PFMA addressed these issues by developing the Pet Size-O-Meter, an body condition score chart endorsed by senior vets in the UK. The aim of the chart was to encourage owners to get hands-on and monitor their pets’ weight. We continue to distribute these to new pet owners through animal rehoming centres.”

Alongside the calories revision, the message from Mars is that feeding pets exclusively on a dry kibble diet means that it is too easy for pet owners to over-feed their animals. Wet food is less calorie-dense and is considered closer to a cat or dog’s natural diet in the wild, due to its high water content. Despite a decline in the popularity of wet food, feeding a combined diet of dry and wet food was the best option suggested Dr Gale, as the mechanical action of chewing kibbles could also be of benefit to dental health.

The revised guidance and information about the number of calories per 100g will feature on Pedigree dry products first and will be rolled out across the company’s other brands over the next two years. The UK’s cats should be benefiting from revised Whiskas labelling from 2013.

The company will offer a nutritional calculator to accompany the new reduced guidelines, which will be available on the Pedigree website initially. It will enable customers to calculate a more tailored feeding programme by entering a dog’s vital statistics, and by including any treats or dental supplements it is fed.

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