Study: Fat Pets Costs Owners Millions

More than half the nation's dogs and cats are found to be overweight.

More than half of the nation’s dogs and cats are overweight or obese, costing pet owners millions, according to the fourth annual Association for Pet Obesity Prevention National Pet Obesity Awareness Study.The preliminary data was released in late February from a nationwide collaboration with Banfield Pet Hospital of Portland, Ore.

Specifically, 35 percent of dogs were found to be overweight and 20.6 percent were observed to be clinically obese or greater than 30 percent of normal body weight. Similarly, 32 percent of cats were classified as overweight by their veterinarian and 21.6 percent obese.

“While the general trend of overweight pets has remained fairly steady at around 50 percent, the number of obese pets is growing,” said Ernie Ward, DVM, founder of APOP. “This is troubling because it means more pets will be affected by weight-related diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease costing pet owners millions in avoidable medical costs.”

The group began conducting veterinary surveys in 2007 and has seen a steady increase in the percentage of pets classified as obese or at least 30 percent above normal body weight.

For example, in 2007, about 19 percent of cats were found to be obese by their veterinarian. In 2010, that number increased to almost 22 percent. For dogs, obesity rates have increased from just over 10 percent in 2007 to 20 percent in 2010.

“One of the reasons we think the obesity rate for dogs has dramatically increased is due to a better understanding of what an obese dog looks like,” Dr. Ward said. “Veterinarians also realize how critical it is to tell a pet owner when their dog is in danger due to its weight.”

The bottom line, according Ward: Pets are battling excess weight just like their owners.

“Our ultimate goal is to help pet owners better care for both themselves and their pets through better diet, exercise and lifestyle strategies.”

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