Pet food low in calories and fats is gaining in popularity on the heels of reports that a growing number of indoor dogs tend to become overweight and face the risk of metabolic syndrome, just like humans.

A survey conducted by the Japan Pet Food Manufacturers Association last year showed that 61.9 percent of households of two or more people with dogs kept their canines indoors. The total figure polled was not provided.

Kao Corp. said a survey it made last March revealed that 87 percent of those questioned gave their dogs snacks. A conspicuous number of dog owners offered food between meals because their pets wanted to eat.

Eight academic societies, including the Japanese Society of Internal Medicine and the Japan Atherosclerosis Society, announced in August 2005 that men with waists measuring 85 cm or more and women with more than 90 cm and having at least two lifestyle-related diseases, including high blood pressure and an abnormally high concentration of fats in the blood, could be defined as suffering metabolic syndrome.

For their canine counterparts, veterinary hospitals compiled data showing that 20 percent to 30 percent of the dogs they examined were overweight.

Against these developments, a scale specifically designed to gauge dogs’ body fat has been developed for veterinarians.

Kao began marketing last November a pet food it says keeps dogs from getting fat. The company said low-calorie oil is used to make the chow, which is priced at 1,554 yen per kg, or about three times the cost for regular dog food.

Kao said a miniature dachshund lost about 6 kg and a Welsh corgi lost around 12.5 kg in eight weeks on a diet of the low-calorie food.

Unicharm Pet Care Corp. is selling dog food that contains about 20 percent less fat and about 10 percent less calories than its conventional dog food.

The firm said sales have been growing about 10 percent a year.

Lion Trading Co. began marketing an improved “zero fat snack” in January and reported that sales have been rising more than 10 percent since last year. It said the snack includes ingredients necessary to burn fats in the body as energy.

“There are many dogs that become overweight and lethargic from living indoors,” said Katsuyoshi Nagaoka, managing director of Minato Yokohama Veterinary Hospital in Yokohama. “I think it is important to give dogs raw meat, let them exercise and regain an air of untamed roughness.”

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