For Maria

Pet Obesity: Chow Hounds and Fat Cats

Obesity can affect all the inhabitants of a home, not just Mom, Dad, and the kids. A recent infographic in USA Today reminds us that as the U.S. population changes, so do the pets that live with us.

USA Today Infographic

The infographic data comes from a survey done by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) which is an organization made up of “dedicated veterinarians and veterinarian healthcare personnel, who are committed to making the lives of dogs, cats, all other animals and people healthier and more vital” and who want to “develop and promote parallel weight loss programs designed to help pet owners lose weight alongside their pets.”

A survey done in March, 2013, by APOP showed that 52.5% of U.S. dogs have excess weight or obesity. The number for cats was 58.3%. This is higher than previous studies, which generally show a range of 29% to 41% in the dog population. A 2006 study in the International Journal of Applied Research in Veterinary Medicine found 34% of dogs had excess weight or obesity.

The APOP survey identified a more troubling statistic in pet obesity. Approximately 45% of cat and dog owners assessed their pet to have a normal body weight when the veterinarian assessed the pet to be overweight. Dr. Ernie Ward, APOP’s founder, calls this phenomenon of incorrectly judging an overweight pet to be normal the “fat gap.” According to Ward, this disconnect — between reality and what a pet parent sees — is making conversation with veterinarians more challenging. “Many pet owners are shocked when their veterinarian informs them their pet needs to lose weight. They just don’t see it,” he says.

Other studies have shown a link between neutering pets and weight gain and between the weight status of a pet owner and the pet’s weight. Pet owners in the U.S. can afford to feed their pets premium pet food and feed them more often. Owners often view feeding as a reward.

Read the details of the APOP survey here. Read the study in the International Journal of Applied Research in Veterinary Medicine here.

For Maria, photograph © Donna and Bryan Cox / Wikimedia Commons

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.