One in four dogs competing in Crufts is overweight, researchers find

'The results are concerning because show dogs are assumed to be perfect specimens of their breed and significant numbers are overweight'

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The Independent Online

It may be a byword for canine cuteness, but Crufts is no doggy health farm. One in four dogs competing in the world’s biggest dog show is overweight, a study has found.

Researchers found that a significant number of dogs in winning categories were fatter than they should be  and they believe it could be to do with the widespread dissemination of show-dog images online that have normalised obesity in dogs.

The researchers analysed 1,120 online images of dogs from 28 breeds – half of which are prone to obesity – that had appeared at Crufts. Only adult dogs that had been placed between first and fifth in their class between 2001 and 2013 were included in the study.

Some of the images were not suitable for scientific analysis, but out of the 960 that were, just three out of four – 74 per cent – were judged to be in ideal condition, and one in four – 26 per cent – were found to be overweight.

Pugs, basset hounds and Labrador retrievers were the breeds most likely to be judged as overweight. Standard poodles, border terriers, Rhodesian ridgebacks, Hungarian vizlas and Dobermanns were least likely to be overweight, according to the study by Liverpool University researchers published in the Veterinary Record.

“The results are concerning because show dogs are assumed to be perfect specimens of their breed and, if significant numbers are overweight, this may 'normalise' obesity in the eyes of the public. The reality is that this condition causes significant health issues for dogs, including arthritis and diabetes,” said Alex German, of the University's School of Veterinary Science.

“We found that 80 per cent of pugs, 68 per cent of Basset hounds, and 63 per cent of Labradors were overweight. When we consider hounds and Labradors were originally bred for hunting, bring in fishing haulage, and other fielding work, being overweight can be detrimental to their physiology and overall wellbeing,” Dr German said.

The Kennel Club, which organises and hosts Crufts, has introduced changes in judging criteria to emphasise characteristics that promote good health. The Liverpool team is working with the organisation to raise awareness of obesity amongst dog breeders and the general public.