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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.

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

 

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.

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%

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

2012 National Pet Obesity Survey Results

Pet Obesity Rates Rise, Cats Heavier Than Ever

Fifty-five Percent of U.S. Dogs and Cats Overweight in Latest Veterinary Survey

 

Calabash, N.C., March 12, 2013 – U.S. pet obesity rates continued to increase in 2012 with the number of overweight cats reaching an all-time high. The sixth annual National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found 52.5 percent of dogs and 58.3 percent of cats to be overweight or obese by their veterinarian. That equals approximately 80 million U.S. dogs and cats at increased risk for weight-related disorders such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, hypertension and many cancers.

52.5% of US Dogs Overweight or Obese or approximately 36.7 million

58.3% of US Cats Overweight or Obese or approximately 43.2 million

Screen Shot 2013-03-12 at 8.39.50 AM“Pet obesity remains the leading health threat to our nation’s pets.” states APOP’s founder and lead veterinarian for the survey Dr. Ernie Ward. “We continue to see an escalation in the number of overweight cats and an explosion in the number of type 2 diabetes cases.”

New York-based veterinary endocrinologist and APOP board member Dr. Mark Peterson agrees. “The soaring rate of feline and canine obesity is taking a terrible toll on our animals’ health. There is a vast population of overweight cats and dogs facing an epidemic of diabetes. The best preventive measure a pet owner can make is to keep their dog or cat at a healthy weight. Diabetes is far easier to prevent than treat, especially when twice daily insulin injections are needed.”

Veterinary nutritionist and internal medicine specialist at the University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine Dr. Joe Bartges cautions that many pet owners don’t recognize when their pet is overweight. “In this survey, approximately 45 percent of cat and dog owners assessed their pet as having a normal body weight when the veterinarian assessed the pet to be overweight.” Dr. Ward calls the phenomenon of incorrectly evaluating an overweight pet as normal “the fat gap.” “The disconnect between reality and what a pet parent thinks is obese makes having a conversation with their veterinarian more challenging. Many pet owners are shocked when their veterinarian informs them their pet needs to lose weight. They just don’t see it.”

Certain breeds showed greater risk for excess weight. Veterinary healthcare providers classified 58.9 percent of Labrador retrievers and 62.7 percent of golden retrievers surveyed as overweight or obese. Surgical specialist Dr. Steve Budsberg of the University of Georgia is particularly concerned about the development of weight-related musculoskeletal conditions. “Once again, our data shows that obesity is rampant and we are certainly setting up more and more dogs and cats for joint problems during their lives. This results in hundreds of millions of dollars in medical bills and countless surgical procedures for weight-related conditions. As a veterinary surgeon I find this extremely frustrating; this disease is easily treatable and even simpler to prevent. Feed your pet less, exercise them more and see your veterinarian at least once a year.”

Dr. Ward also sees a clear connection between pet and childhood obesity rates. “The causes of pet and childhood obesity are largely the same: too many high-calorie foods and snacks combined with too little physical activity. Parents need to encourage children to put down their video games and pick up the dog leash to go for a walk. Instead of snacking on sugary treats, share crunchy vegetables with your dog. Eat more whole foods instead of highly processed fast food.”

“This is a war veterinarians, pet owners and parents must win. Obesity is the number one preventable medical condition seen in veterinary hospitals today and is the fastest growing health threat of our nation’s children. Our goal is to help pets and people live longer, healthier, and pain-free lives by maintaining a healthy weight, proper nutrition, and physical activity. The most important decision a pet owner makes each day is what they choose to feed their pet. Choose wisely. Your pet’s life depends on it.”

Dr. Ernie Ward, founder of Association for Pet Obesity Prevention

  • The 2012 survey, conducted in October and December 2012, analyzed data from 121 veterinary clinics in 36 states
  • 1,485 dogs and 450 cats were assessed
  • Cats: 4.4% male, 49.6% male neutered, 6.2% female, 39.8% female spayed
  • Dogs: 8.4% male, 39.1% male neutered, 6.0% female, 46.5% female spayed
  • Median age of surveyed pets: Dogs – 6 years of age, Cats – 6 years of age
  • Dogs and cats were classified by veterinary clinics as: BCS 1 – Underweight, BCS 2 – Thin but normal, BCS 3 – Ideal weight, BCS 4 – Overweight, BCS 5 – Obese
  • Based on 2012 survey results and 2012 American Veterinary Medical Association data 80 million U.S. dogs and cats are overweight or obese.
  • Based on 2012 survey results and 2012 American Veterinary Medical Association data
    • An estimated 43.2 million cats or 58.3% are overweight or obese (74.1 million U.S. pet cats, 2012 AVMA)
      • 29.3 million cats BCS 4 – Overweight
      • 13.9 million cats BCS 5 – Obese
    • An estimated 36.7 million dogs or 52.5% are overweight or obese (70 million U.S. pet dogs, 2012 AVMA)
      • 25.7 million dogs BCS 4 – Overweight
      • 11 million dogs BCS 5 – Obese
  • Labrador retrievers were the most common pure breed in the study (141/1485, 9.5% total surveyed)
    • 58.9% were classified as overweight or obese
      • 42.6% – Overweight
      • 16.3% – Obese
  • German shepherds had the lowest reported pure breed Obesity (BCS 5) rate of 2.1%
  • 45.8% of dog owners incorrectly identified their overweight or obese dogs as “normal weight” when asked by their veterinary clinic to assess their pet’s current body condition (pet owner’s choices were too thin, normal, overweight, obese)
  • 45.3% of cat owners incorrectly identified their overweight or obese cats as “normal weight” when asked by their veterinary clinic to assess their pet’s current body condition (pet owner’s choices were too thin, normal, overweight, obese)

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CONTACT:

Ernie Ward, DVM, CVFT

DrErnieWard@gmail.com

910-620-1295 / 910-579-5550

Mark Peterson, DVM, Dip. ACVIM

drpeterson@animalendocrine.com

212-362-2650