As Americans stretch the limits of their collective elastic waistbands, their pets aren't far behind, according to findings from the sixth annual National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Survey, released today by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP).
The survey was conducted in October and December of last year. The data from 121 veterinary clinics in 36 states covering 1,485 dogs and 450 cats, combined with 2012 American Veterinary Medical Association data revealed:
- 80 million U.S. dogs and cats are overweight or obese;
- 58.3 percent of cats are overweight or obese; and
- 52.5 percent of dogs are overweight or obese.
Furthermore, certain dog breeds pack on the pounds more than others, according to the veterinarians who contributed to the survey. Specifically:
- 58.9 of Labrador retrievers were considered overweight or obese; and
- 62.7 of golden retrievers were considered overweight or obese.
Extra kibble, treats and more sedentary ways has lead to more serious health concerns than sporting a few extra pounds, said veterinarians familiar with the issue.
“Pet obesity remains the leading health threat to our nation's pets,” said Dr. Ernie Ward, DVM, founder of Calabash, N.C.-based Association for Pet Obesity Prevention and lead veterinarian in the survey.
“Obesity is rampant,” said Dr. Steve Budsberg, DVM, DACVS, a veterinary orthopedic surgery specialist with the University of Georgia, “and we are certainly setting up more and more dogs and cats for joint problems during their lives.”
But pet joint problems appear to be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to pet obesity.
“We continue to see an escalation in the number of overweight cats and an explosion in the number of type 2 diabetes cases,” Dr. Ward said.
What's in a Name?
“The soaring rate of feline and canine obesity is taking a terrible toll on our animals' health,” said Dr. Mark Peterson, DVM, ACVIM, a New York City-based veterinary endocrinologist and APOP board member.
“Diabetes is far easier to prevent than treat,” Dr. Peterson added.
Preventing a dog or cat from contracting diabetes is relatively simple, according to Peterson.
“The best preventative measure” is to keep them “at a healthy weight,” he said.
But that may not be as easy as it sounds, especially considering that nearly half of those who participated in the survey, who had fat cats and round hounds, believed that their pets were “normal.”
The National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Survey revealed this about the owners of chubby pets:
- 45.8 percent of dog owners thought their dogs were “normal weight;” and
- 45.3 percent of cat owners thought their cats were “normal weight.”
“This is a war veterinarians, pet owners and parents must win,” Dr. Ward urged.
Dr. Budsberg's advice: “Feed your pets less, exercise them more and see your veterinarian at least once a year.”