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Source: Purina

St. Louis, Missouri -- While dogs are considered man's best friend, a recent survey* revealed many owners may struggle with how to best care for their pudgy pooches. Since maintaining a healthy weight can add years to a dog's life and help them avoid serious medical conditions, Purina Dog Chow Light & Healthy conducted a nationwide survey to learn more about owner perceptions of their pet's weight, management, exercise and feeding habits, in an effort to offer some solutions to help America's heavy hounds get back on track.

Perception vs. Reality

As pet obesity reaches epidemic levels, the recent Dog Chow Light & Healthy survey identified a stark contrast between owners' perceptions and reality when it comes to their dog's weight. While only 22 percent of owners surveyed believe their dog is overweight, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention reports that a whopping 53 percent of dogs are actually overweight or obese1.

Even when owners acknowledge that their four-legged friend may be tipping the scales, the survey findings suggest that many may struggle with how to tackle the problem. Of dog owners surveyed who believe their dog is overweight, almost one-fourth (24 percent) admit they don't know how they should manage their dog's weight, and 22 percent have taken no action to do so.

Nutrition Matters

Of those surveyed who have taken action to manage their dog's weight, more than one-third (36 percent) report feeding smaller portions of the same dog food. However this may leave the dog feeling less than satisfied and the owner feeling guilty.

"Providing a healthy, low calorie diet should be the first step owners take to help their pet slim down," says Christina Schneider, Brand Manager for Purina Dog Chow. "Purina Dog Chow Light & Healthy was specifically designed to help dogs reach their ideal weight, without sacrificing taste or skimping on portion size."

Purina Dog Chow Light & Healthy contains 20 percent fewer calories than Purina Dog Chow Complete & Balanced, is steam-cooked at the start, includes a tender, crunchy kibble blend and is made with high quality protein sources including real chicken. It's light in calories, but big on taste.

Assessing the Issue

A key challenge for owners may lie in understanding how to tell if their dog is overweight in the first place. While 85 percent of those surveyed believe they know the correct signs to determine if their dog is a healthy weight, approximately 41 percent rely on their veterinarian to determine if their dog is overweight.

While veterinarians are an excellent resource for advice when managing a pet's weight, it's important that owners know how to properly assess their dog's weight as well. The Nestle Purina Body Condition System provides guidelines to help determine if the dog is a healthy weight, including checking the profile and overhead view of the dog, as well as feeling for the dog's ribs.

Get Moving

In conjunction with feeding a low calorie dog food like Purina Dog Chow Light & Healthy, regular exercise can benefit both the dog and owner. Of dog owners surveyed who report having a healthy weight dog, 61 percent reported exercising regularly themselves, and 77 percent said they give their dog exercise more than three times per week. Having a canine companion also can be one of the best motivators for staying active. In fact 79 percent of survey participants said they would rather exercise with their dog than with a personal trainer, and 68 percent would choose exercising with their dog over a friend.

"While proper diet should be the first step to helping a pet reach it's ideal weight, regular exercise is important as well," says Grace Long, DVM, MS, MBA, director of veterinary technical marketing, Nestle Purina PetCare. "Exercising with our pets not only burns calories, but also helps promote the owner - pet bond."

Purina Dog Chow Light & Healthy is part of the Total Care Nutrition portfolio of Purina Dog Chow, and is available for purchase at all grocery, mass and pet specialty retailers. The suggested retail price is $5.99 for a 4lb bag, $12.99 for a 16.5 lb bag, and $21.99 for a 32lb bag. To learn more and download a coupon to try Purina Dog Chow Light & Healthy, visit www.dogchow.com/lightandhealthy.

1According to the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention, 2013 Pet Obesity Study

About Purina Dog Chow

The Purina Dog Chow brand offers a complete line of great-tasting, healthy dog foods, including Puppy Chow, Little Bites and Healthy Morsels. The brand is manufactured by Nestlé Purina PetCare, a global leader in the pet care industry. Nestle Purina PetCare promotes responsible pet care, humane education, community involvement and the positive bond between people and their pets. The North American headquarters for Nestle Purina PetCare is located at Checkerboard Square in St. Louis, Missouri. Nestle Purina PetCare is part of Swiss-based Nestle S.A. -- the world's largest food company.

*About the Purina Dog Chow Weight Management Study
These are some of the findings of a proprietary study conducted April 1-8, 2014 by Market Probe International on behalf of the Purina Dog Chow brand. Sampling was among a general US population of 1,000 adults online, ages 18-55+, who own a dog. Quotas were put in place to ensure analyzable base sizes of key target groups. Sample weighting was employed to ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the actual U.S. adult population based on the observed incidence in field.