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2016 U.S. Pet Obesity Statistics

U.S. Pets Get Fatter, Owners Disagree with Veterinarians on Nutritional Issues

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention Reports Record Number of Overweight Pets in U.S. in 2016, Pet Owners Disagree with Veterinarians on Key Pet Food Issues

Pet obesity in the U.S. continued to steadily increase in 2016, affecting nearly 59% of cats and 54% of dogs, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). During the ninth annual survey, APOP also found pet owners and veterinary professionals disagreed on key pet food issues such as the benefits of corn and grains, value of raw and organic diets, and the best sources of pet nutritional advice.

“Obesity continues to be the greatest health threat to dogs and cats.” states APOP Founder, veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward. “Obesity is a disease that kills millions of pets prematurely, creates immeasurable pain and suffering, and costs pet owners tens of millions of dollars in avoidable medical costs.”

 

In the October 2016 clinical survey, 53.9% of dogs and 58.9% of cats were classified as overweight (body condition score (BCS) 4) or obese (BCS 5) by their veterinary healthcare professional. That equals an estimated 41.9 million dogs and 50.5 million cats are too heavy, based on 2016 pet population projections provided by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). In 2015, APOP found 53.8% of dogs and 58.2% were overweight or obese.

2016 U.S. Pet Obesity Infographic

Pet owners and veterinary professionals were questioned about pet obesity, diet and nutrition, and sources of pet food advice. When asked to classify their own pet’s weight, 81% of pet owners and 87% of veterinary professionals reported they were a normal and healthy weight. 98% of veterinary clinic staff agreed that pet obesity was a problem in the U.S., compared to about 87% of pet owners. Nearly all pet owners and veterinary professionals (greater than 95%) believed an overweight pet is at increased risk of pain and suffering and that quality nutrition can extend life expectancy.

Quality was the primary influence when purchasing pet food by over 80% of pet owners and 82% of veterinary staff. Price (16%) or location and convenience (7%) were not reported as significant factors for either group when choosing food for their dog or cat. Both pet owners and veterinary professionals (55%) said they worried about the quality of their pet’s food affecting the long-term health of their dog or cat.

54% of U.S. Dogs and 59% of Cats Overweight

Pet owners and veterinary professionals disagreed on whether their veterinarian discussed their pet’s ideal weight. Over 93% of pet owners stated they visited their veterinarian within the past year, yet only 49% reported their vet discussed their pet’s ideal weight, while over 60% of veterinary professionals claimed they did. Less than 4% of pet owners stated they felt guilty or uncomfortable when their veterinarian talked about their pet’s weight with them.

2016 U.S. Pet Obesity Survey Results

Only 42% of pet owners agreed their veterinarian should recommend a maintenance diet, compared to over 64% of veterinarians. Only 39% of pet owners recalled their veterinary clinic recommended a maintenance diet, while about 48% of veterinary professionals stated they offered routine diet recommendations.

When asked where they obtained the best sources of dietary recommendations for their pet, over 46% of pet owners rated online advice as the best method, compared to 19% of veterinary professionals.

 

Pet owners and veterinary professionals were sharply divided on pet food ingredients and types of dog and cat diets.

  • Do you think low- or no-grain diets are healthier for dogs?
    • – 61% pet owners and 25% veterinary professionals agreed with this statement
  • Do you think raw diets are healthier for dogs and cats?
    • – 35% pet owners and 15% veterinary professionals agreed
  • Do you think organic pet foods are healthier?
    • – 43% pet owners and 23% veterinary professionals agreed
  • Do you think corn is healthy for dogs?
    • – 73% of pet owners disagreed while 48% veterinary professionals agreed

 

U.S. Pet Obesity 2012-2016

About the Research

The annual obesity prevalence survey is conducted by APOP. Veterinary practices assessed the body condition scores of every dog and cat patient they saw for a regular wellness exam on a given day in October. Body condition scores based on a five-point scale and actual weight were used in classifying pets as either underweight, thin, ideal, overweight or obese. The 2016 survey included the assessment of 1,224 dogs and 682 cats by 187 veterinary clinics.

 

 

 

2016 U.S. Dogs

Dogs (n=1,224)
Body condition score (1 to 5)
1          (6)       0.5%
2          (17)     1.4%
3          (542)   44.3%
4          (417)   34.1%
5          (242)   19.8%

 

 

2016 U.S. Cats

Cats (n=682)
Body condition score (1 to 5)
1          (7)       1%
2          (21)     3.1%
3          (252)   37%
4          (191)   28%
5          (211)   30.9%

The online questionnaire was completed by 1,172 pet owners and 445 veterinary professionals from October 12 to December 31, 2016.

About the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP)

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2005 by Dr. Ernie Ward with the primary mission of documenting pet obesity levels in the United States to raise awareness of the issue and its negative impact on pets. The APOP Board of Directors is made up of veterinary practitioners, nutritionists, surgeons, and internal medicine specialists. APOP conducts annual research to substantiate pet obesity prevalence levels in the United States and offers resources and tools to veterinarians and pet owners to better equip them to recognize and fight pet obesity. More information about APOP can be found on their website www.PetObesityPrevention.org.

APOP Press Release 2016 Survey

2015 Pet Obesity Statistics

2015apopstatsPet Obesity Grows in 2015

In 2015, an estimated 53.8% of US dogs were overweight or obese. An estimated 58.2% of US cats were overweight or obese. (click here for original information)

Trend toward ‘Super-Obese’

The 2015 survey confirms a consistent trend toward more obese pets. “For the past seven years, our surveys have seen the percentage of clinically obese dogs and cats outpace those that need to lose a couple of pounds. Not only are we seeing more fat pets, we’re seeing fatter and fatter pets.” warns University of Minnesota veterinary nutritionist and APOP Board member, Dr. Julie Churchill. “An 18-pound cat is at greater risk of developing diseases such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure than one that is a pound or two overweight.”

University of Georgia veterinary surgeon and APOP Board member Dr. Steve Budsberg agrees. “We’re seeing more ‘super-obese’ dogs with devastating knee, hip, and elbow injuries and disease than ever before. Obesity creates tremendous mechanical stresses on bones and joints and that can lead to serious pain and suffering.” Dr. Budsberg notes these problems aren’t limited to dogs. “We’re diagnosing arthritis and joint injuries in obese cats at startling rates.”

Need for Veterinary Standardization

APOP founder Dr. Ernie Ward challenges the veterinary profession to standardize medical terminology and tools for obesity. “APOP is committed to uniting veterinarians with a single set of pet obesity definitions and tools. We are working toward a common professional standard Body Condition Score (BCS) with European colleagues and universal definitions for overweight and obese.”

“There are currently three major BCS scales used worldwide.” emphasizes Dr. Churchill. “We need a single standard to ensure all veterinarians are on the same page. Until we have that, it’s nearly impossible to create additional communication strategies.”

Dr. Budsberg also stresses the need for uniform terminology. “Our profession hasn’t agreed on what defines ‘overweight’ from ‘obese.’ These words have significant clinical meaning and affect treatment recommendations.”

Pet Obesity as a Disease

Many veterinarians feel it’s time to officially designate pet obesity as a disease. “The American Medical Association (AMA) recognized obesity as a disease in 2013. I think the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) should follow suit. By defining obesity as a disease, many veterinarians will take the condition more seriously and be compelled to act rather than ignore this serious health threat.” Dr. Ward stresses. “Additionally, by classifying pet obesity as a medical condition treatable by licensed veterinarians, the pet-owning public will be better protected against potentially harmful products and services making unsubstantiated and dubious claims.”

“I strongly support classifying pet obesity as a disease.” states Dr. Churchill. “I think veterinarians will be encouraged to provide better care and the pet industry will have further incentive to pursue innovative treatments.”

Few Older Obese Pets

The 2015 APOP survey also found that the incidence of obesity decreases with age. “We’ve been saying for a long time: ‘There are many fat pets. There are many old pets. There aren’t many fat, old pets.’ Our research continues to support the fact that obesity is a disease of young-adult to early-senior aged pets.” points out Dr. Ward.

“The reality is obesity kills.” comments Dr. Joe Barges, Academic Director for Cornell University Veterinary Specialists and APOP Board member. “Numerous studies have linked obesity with type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, many forms of cancer, and decreased life expectancy. Our survey validates the notion that obese pets tend to live shorter lives with more medical problems.”

The survey found in pets classified by their veterinarian as overweight or obese, only 16.5% of cats were 12 to 15 years of age and 6.6% over 15. In dogs, only 13.2% were 12 to 15 years old and only 1.1% over 15. The average age of cats in the study was 8.2 years and dogs 6.7 years. 87% of cats were classified as domestic short hair (DSH) with 46.2% female spayed and 49.6% male neutered. Dogs were identified as 44.7% female spayed and 43.5% male neutered.

About the Research

The annual obesity prevalence survey is conducted by APOP. Veterinary practices that participated assessed the body condition scores of every dog and cat patient they saw for a regular wellness exam on a given day in October. Body condition scores based on a five-point scale and actual weight were used in classifying pets as either underweight, ideal, overweight or obese. The latest survey included the assessment of 1,224 dogs and cats by 136 veterinary clinics.

About APOP

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention was founded in 2005 by Dr. Ernie Ward with the primary mission of documenting pet obesity levels in the United States to raise awareness of the issue and its negative impact on pets. The APOP board is made up of veterinary practitioners, nutritionists, surgeons, and internal medicine specialists. APOP conducts annual research to substantiate pet obesity prevalence levels in the United States and offers resources and tools to veterinarians and pet owners to better equip them to recognize and fight pet obesity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avoid a Pet Emergency Super Sunday Overtime: Championship Game Parties Can be Dangerous to your Dog and Cat

Dr. Ernie Ward

(February 3, 2012 – Calabash, NC)

Your Super Sunday party may be dangerous to your pet. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) offers tips to pet owners to make sure their Big Game party activities don’t end up with an overtime veterinary emergency.

Super Sunday now trails only Thanksgiving in terms of US food consumption. This enormous engorgement not only threatens many weight loss resolutions, it also may add unhealthy pounds and dangers to our dogs and cats. Sharing a few nibbles of healthy snacks such as celery or carrots is fine, pizza and wings are not.

“When we look at weight gain in humans and pets, big single-day caloric consumption can have life-long consequences.” notes Dr. Ernie Ward, founder and President of APOP. “A pet can be fed a healthy, low-calorie diet and have their efforts erased with a huge feast.”

Ward points out several foods to avoid feeding your pet on Super Sunday. “Don’t feed your pet anything fried or battered, covered in creamy sauces and steer clear of salty snacks.” In fact, Ward recommends limiting any super snacks to “crunchy vegetables such as broccoli, baby carrots, celery and asparagus.” According to Ward, each chicken wing has about 55 calories. A 20-pound dog fed a single chicken wing is similar to an average adult eating almost seven wings. Feed a 40-pound dog one-half slice of pepperoni pizza and that’s the same as an adult consuming two slices of pepperoni pizza and a 12-ounce cola.

It’s not just the calories that worry Ward. “Americans will eat about 1.25 billion chicken wings during the Big Game. That equals 1.25 billion chances for a dog or cat to ingest a bone that can cause serious complications.” APOP warns pet owners not to feed their pets chicken wings due to the risk of intestinal obstruction or worse.

“An often overlooked risk of chicken wings is salt,” states Ward. “One buffalo wing has almost about 160 to 200 mg of sodium. That’s about the amount of sodium recommended for a 20-pound dog in a day. Feeding a dog too much salt can cause high blood pressure and can contribute to kidney and heart disease.” Other foods high in salt that should not be fed to pets include pizza, hamburgers and cheeseburgers, fries, pretzels, potato chips, canned beef stew, potato salad and many sauces.

“Chicken wing bones and salt are not the only potential dangers a pet may face on Championship Sunday.” adds University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine veterinary nutritionist and internal medicine specialist Dr. Joe Bartges. “Foods such as chocolate, raisins, macadamia nuts, and foods containing Xylitol may be toxic. Eating foods high in fat not only increases calorie intake, but may cause problems such as vomiting and diarrhea or life-threatening pancreatitis.”

Alcohol is another potential danger for pets. Dogs and cats are extremely sensitive to alcoholic beverages and will often drink from half-empty cups and bottles and become ill. As little as a few ounces of beer or wine can prove toxic to a dog or cat. APOP recommends never leaving alcoholic beverages unattended and discard any containers as soon as you’re done.

One final Super Sunday danger Ward warns about – stress. “You may have friends and family over, rooting for your favorite team with lots of loud noises and high-fiving. All of this may prove especially stressful for the four-legged family members that have little interest in the big game. If you notice your dog or cat cowering or pacing, provide a quiet, safe space for them to relax away from the action. Otherwise, you may be awakened early Monday morning by unwelcome stress-related diarrhea.”

 

Contact

Association for Pet Obesity Prevention

www.PetObesityPrevention.org

9256 Beach Drive

Calabash, NC 28467

Dr.  Ernie Ward

DrErnieWard@gmail.com

910-579-5550

910-620-1295

Dr. Joe Bartges

865-974-8387

jbartges@utk.edu

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