Pet Obesity Expands in U.S.

PetMD Editorial
Updated: February 23, 2011
Published: February 24, 2009
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A new study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) reveals that more than 57 percent of cats and 44 percent of dogs are estimated to be overweight or obese in the United States.

Conducted in October by 95 U.S. veterinary clinics, the National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Study evaluated 669 dogs, ages 1 to 16, and 202 cats, ages 1 to 19.

The study estimates that there are 7.2 million obese and 26 million overweight dogs. The number in cats is higher, with 15.7 million estimated to be obese and 35 million overweight. (The body condition score system is used by veterinarians to determine a pet's ideal weight.)

"Pet obesity continues to emerge as a leading cause of preventable disease and death in dogs and cats," said Ernie Ward, DVM, lead researcher and founder of APOP. "Our pets are in real danger of not living as long as previous generations and developing serious and costly diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, and other largely avoidable conditions."

The study also found that older animals had a higher incidence of being overweight, with 52.1 percent of dogs and 55 percent of cats over age 7 classified as overweight or obese.

"We're seeing more and more diabetes, respiratory, and arthritic conditions in older pets as a direct result of obesity. These are often chronic, incurable, and generally preventable diseases. Pet owners need to understand that a few extra pounds on a dog or cat is similar to a person being 30 to 50 pounds overweight," said Dr. Ward.

Curiously, most pet owners with heavy pets accurately reported their pet's weight status when asked by veterinary healthcare providers. For example, 71.5 percent of owners with overweight or obese cats identified their cat as overweight or obese, and 60 percent of dog owners agreed with their veterinarian's assessment of their dog's weight.

Smaller breeds of dogs (Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, and Yorkshire Terriers) were found to have more weight problems than larger breeds (Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, or German Shepherds).

To learn more about how you can identify and treat severe weight gain in your dog or cat, please visit these two articles in the PetMD health library.

Image: brokinhrt2 / via Flickr

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