Publication Details

Degeling, C., Rock, M. & Teows, L. (2011). Portrayals of canine obesity in English-language newspapers and in leading veterinary journals, 2000-2009: Implications for animal welfare organizations and veterinarians as public educators. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 14 (4), 286-303.


In industrialized societies, more than 1 in 3 dogs and people currently qualify as overweight or obese. Experts in public health expect both these figures to rise. Although clinical treatment remains important, so are public perceptions and social norms. This article presents a thematic analysis of English-language mass media coverage on canine obesity from 2000 through 2009 and compares these results with a thematic analysis of articles on canine obesity in leading veterinary journals during the same time period. Drawing on Giddens's theory of structuration, this study identified articles that emphasized individual agency, environmental structure, or both as contributors to canine obesity. Comparisons with weight-related health problems in human populations were virtually absent from the veterinary sample. Although such comparisons were almost always present in the media sample, quotations from veterinarians and other spokespeople for the welfare of nonhuman animals emphasized the agency of individual caregivers (owners) over structural influences. Now that weight gain and obesity have been established as a pressing animal welfare problem, these results suggest a need for research and for interventions, such as media advocacy, that emphasize intersections between animal-owner agency, socioenvironmental determinants, and connections between animal welfare and human health. Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.



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