Cat, Dog Obesity Continues to Grow

New study on pet obesity suggests half of U.S. pets are now overweight or obese.

Posted: July 16, 2008, 5 a.m. EDT

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Armed with measuring tapes and scales, veterinary professionals representing 29 states examined the waistlines of their regular patients as part of a study on pet obesity conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. The findings indicate that nearly half of the nation’s cats and dogs are now overweight or obese.

“This is a serious problem,” said the study’s lead investigator, Dr. Ernie Ward. “What troubles me is the greater risk for high blood pressure and diabetes.”

The startling fact, Ward said, was the number of obese cats. According to the study, 43 percent of dogs and 53 percent of cats were classified as overweight or obese by a veterinary healthcare provider; 10 percent of dogs and 19 percent of cats were found to be obese.

“The pet data is closely paralleling that of humans,” Ward said. “We are becoming a nation of couch potatoes and lap potatoes.”

The study included 704 dogs ages 1 to 17 years and 282 cats ages 1 to 21 years. Veterinarians from 98 small animal clinics collected the data on National Pet Obesity Awareness Day, Oct. 17, 2007.

A 1-to-5 Body Condition Scale was used to track whether an animal was very thin, BCS 1; underweight, BCS 2; ideal, BCS 3; overweight, BCS 4; or obese, BCS 5.

According to the association’s estimates, the study suggests that as many as 32 million dogs and 46 million cats in the United States are overweight or obese. Almost 8 million dogs and 17 million cats are thought to be obese.

“Fat is biologically active tissue and an excess amount negatively impacts almost every body system,” Ward said. “We’re in real danger of raising an entire generation of pets that will live a shorter life expectancy than the dogs and cats we enjoyed as children.”

The study also looked into pet owners’ assessments of their dog’s or cat’s weight. The majority of pet owners understand that their pets are too heavy, with 63 percent of dog owners who have overweight canines classifying their pet correctly and 73 percent of cat owners with flabby felines stating their cat was overweight.

In order to combat pet obesity, Ward said, it must begin with bilateral communication: pet owners must ask if their furry friends are too heavy and veterinarians need to tell owners when a pet is overweight. Once that awareness is established, lifestyle changes must take effect.

For example, avoid overfeeding. Treats, Ward said, are a “silent saboteur” and can easily be replaced with healthier alternatives. For dogs, he recommends baby carrots. For cats, a pinch of salmon. 

Better yet, Ward said, keep pets active by going for walks or throwing a ball around. Chances are that it’s attention that they seek, he said, not a high-calorie treat.

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Chenoa   Great Cacapon, WV

1/19/2009 5:33:01 PM

This needs more widely known. I want educational facts of what it does to an animal if you over feed it. I have an aunt by marriage that over feeds her dogs. I'm very outraged that she is doing it with her new dog that isn't a year old yet. I want information to show her that this is wrong so that she can get a wake up call before she destroys the dogs life. Any suggestions of websites with information of very certified vets would be of much help. Pictures of what it can do would be good too because she is stubborn and thinks that I was the abusive one for listening to the proper feedings that a dog is suppose to have. She said by listening to my vet and the recommended amount of food was starving my animal. Thank you for this artical!

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Amanda   NY, NY

7/16/2008 7:16:30 PM

Its bad enough that the humans are becoming obese. Now its happening to our pets.

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Karen   Standish, ME

7/16/2008 5:59:51 PM

We work very hard to keep our dalmatian at the proper weight. She loves to steal food! I know my parents dog a Boston Terrier, had a short life because of being obese. She died suddenly at age 10!

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Mary   Battle Creek, MI

7/16/2008 12:45:36 PM

That's not good!

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