Top Sydney vet outlines growing pet health concerns during pandemic


Top Sydney vet outlines growing pet health concerns during pandemic hero image

One of Sydney’s top vets has spoken out with grave concerns about pet health after revealing that the number of dogs being classed as overweight or obese has soared in the last 12 months. Dr Gretta Howard says dog obesity has been on a steep rise throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, placing more and more dogs at risk of serious health issues such as severe osteoarthritis, life-threatening breathing difficulties and reduced quality of life.

Dr Howard, who practises at the award-winning Turramurra Veterinary Hospital on Sydney’s North Shore, warns weights are creeping up across the canine population, placing the health and wellbeing of our pets in serious jeopardy.

She said, “Since entering veterinary practice 20 years ago, I’ve seen a steady increase in the percentage of overweight dogs. The current percentage of overweight dogs that I see in my practice is around 30%. This supports the growing industry concern that 41% of dogs are already overweight or obese – with that figure now growing as a result of COVID, the crisis is escalating.

“We rate dogs on a body condition score between 1-9, with the ideal weight being around four or five out of nine. In the past six to 12 months, dogs that were previously scored a four or five are now a five or six and the trend on the scale for many dogs is creeping upwards.”

For many pets, lockdown has severely increased their risk of becoming overweight or obese, and developing health issues as a result. Dr Howard adds, “I suspect that there is a combination of factors behind this growing problem but during the COVID period, many pet parents were at home more often with their pets, leading to an increased tendency to feed extra titbits instead of sticking to the traditional two meals a day routine.

“The other thing to factor in is the fact that many parents have been stressed out, supervising their children with home schooling, as well as trying to work at home, which would have meant less time to walk their dogs.”

Dr Lee Danks, Technical Services Veterinarian at Black Hawk, says “Much like humans, dog health can be severely impacted by weight gain, leading to mobility issues and other serious health problems, and ultimately a shorter life expectancy. The obesity epidemic is particularly concerning for pet-loving Australians, and it’s very important to be aware of your dog’s weight, check it regularly and to devise a weight-management plan, in conjunction with your veterinarian if appropriate.”

One company looking to help educate Australian pet parents on this serious dog obesity issue is Black Hawk. With the launch of a free online health check, owners can get a personalised assessment of their dogs in human terms, receive a specific plan and ongoing tips and advice for how to help manage their dog’s weight and keep fit and healthy.

About Black Hawk DogCheck™

Black Hawk DogCheck™ is designed to help pet parents identify if their dog’s health is at risk due to obesity and allows them to take the steps needed to improve their dog’s well-being.

The tool asks pet parents to submit their dog’s current weight, gender, age and breed to the DogCheck™ website via smartphone or desktop. This data then transforms their dog into human form — enabling owners to visualise their dogs as they would see themselves.

DogCheck™ gives pro-active solutions to get dogs back into shape through good nutrition, portion control and exercise. These include; advice on feeding plans, a portion control calculator, expert pet health articles and tips, as well as access to the Black Hawk customer service team for one-to-one advice.

About Dr Lee Danks

Dr Lee Danks has worked in veterinary practices in Melbourne and across the UK and has a particular interest in companion animal nutrition. Dr Danks has also co-authored clinical literature and lectures to build on our collective understanding of the nutritional needs of dogs and cats. As part of the Technical Services Veterinarian team at Black Hawk, Dr Danks is closely involved with the formulation of Black Hawk recipes, from the start of the process to the end.

About Dr Gretta Howard

Dr Gretta Howard graduated from the University of Sydney in 1999. She worked in mixed veterinary practices in country NSW, then in private practices in Sydney from 2001-2004. Gretta then travelled throughout the UK, working as a locum vet. Gretta currently practices at her Turramurra Vet Hospital, as well as two busy emergency practices on Sydney’s North Shore.

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