2013 Pet Obesity Survey

An estimated 52.6% of US dogs are overweight or obese (BCS 4-5)
43.8 million US dogs are estimated to be overweight or obese
13.9 million US dogs are estimated to be obese

An estimated 16.7% of US dogs are obese (BCS 5)

An estimated 57.6% of US cats are overweight or obese (BCS 4-5)
55 million US cats are estimated to be overweight or obese
26.2 million US cats are estimated to be obese

An estimated 27.4% of US cats are obese (BCS 5)

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2012 Pet Obesity Survey Results

Pet Obesity Rates Rise, Cats Heavier than Ever

(March 11, 2013 Calabash, North Carolina)

55% of US Dogs and Cats Overweight in Latest Veterinary Survey

US 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% of dogs and 58.3% of cats to be overweight or obese by their veterinarian. That equals approximately 80 million US dogs and cats at increased risk for weight-related disorders such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, hypertension, and many cancers.

“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% 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. 58.9% of Labrador retrievers and 62.7% of Golden retrievers surveyed were classified as overweight or obese by their veterinary healthcare provider. 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. Choose wisely. Your pet’s life depends on it.”

·      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 US dogs and cats are overweight and obese.

·      Based on 2012 survey results and 2012 American Veterinary Medical Association data

o   An estimated 43.2 million cats or 58.3% are overweight or obese (74.1 million US pet cats, 2012 AVMA)

§  29.3 million cats BCS 4 - Overweight

§  13.9 million cats BCS 5 - Obese

o   An estimated 36.7 million dogs or 52.5% are overweight or obese (70 million US 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)

o   58.9% were classified as overweight or obese

§  42.6% were classified as Overweight

§  16.3% were classified as 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”).

2011 Pet Obesity Survey Results

Big Pets Get Bigger: Latest Survey Shows Pet Obesity Epidemic Expanding

 (Calabash, NC – February 7, 2012)

54% of Nation’s Pets Overweight According to Latest Veterinary Survey; Pet Owners in Denial

The “fat pet gap” continues to widen according to the latest nationwide survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). The fifth annual veterinary survey found 53 percent of adult dogs and 55 percent of cats to be classified as overweight or obese by their veterinarian. That equals 88.4 million pets that are too heavy according to veterinarians.

“The most distressing finding in this year’s study was the fact that more pet owners are unaware their pet is overweight.” comments APOP founder Dr. Ernie Ward. “22 percent of dog owners and 15 percent of cat owners characterized their pet as normal weight when it was actually overweight or obese. This is what I refer to as the “fat pet gap” or the normalization of obesity by pet parents. In simplest terms, we’ve made fat pets the new normal.”

Perhaps even worse was the finding that the number of obese pets, those at least 30 percent above normal weight or a body condition score (BCS) of 5, continues to grow despite 93.4 percent of surveyed pet owners identifying pet obesity as a problem. The study found 24.9 percent of all cats were classified as obese and 21.4 percent of all dogs were obese in 2011. That’s up from 2010 when 21.6 percent of cats and 20.6 percent of dogs were found to be obese. “What this tells us is that more and more of our pets are entering into the highest danger zone for weight-related disorders.” says Ward.

Some of the common weight-related conditions in dogs and cats include osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, breathing problems, kidney disease, and shortened life expectancy. Orthopedic surgeon, APOP Board member and Director of Clinical Research at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine Dr. Steve Budsberg states that “The prevention of obesity needs to be at the forefront of all discussions people have about the health of their pet with their veterinarian. The body of evidence that shows the negative impact of obesity on all the body’s systems is overwhelming.  As an orthopedic surgeon I see, on a daily basis, the effects of obesity on dogs and cats with osteoarthritis.  It is very frustrating to see how much pain and discomfort excess weight has on my patients.  Veterinarians and owners have the ability to stop obesity in our pets. No animal goes to the refrigerator or the pantry and helps themselves. We enable our pets to get fat!”

Ward agrees. “Pet obesity is plainly a people problem, not a pet problem. The most important decision pet owners make each day regarding their pet’s health is what they choose to feed it.”

Endocrinologist and fellow APOP Board member Dr. Mark Peterson agrees. “Obesity in dogs and cats is not just the accumulation of large amounts of adipose tissue, but it is associated with important metabolic and hormonal changes in the body.   For example, heavy or obese cats are up to four times more likely to develop diabetes as a complication of their obesity.  Losing weight can lead to reversal of the diabetic state in some of these obese cats.”

Treats continue to be a major contributor to weight gain in pets.  An online poll conducted in October 2011 by APOP of 210 pet owners found 93 percent of all dog and cat owners gave treats. 95 percent gave a commercial treat with 26 percent reporting they gave their pet treats three or more times a day. “Treats are the silent saboteur of slimming down.” remarks Ward. “Those tiny treats are often hiding a significant amount of calories.” Ward suggests offering single-ingredient rewards or fresh vegetables such as baby carrots, string beans, broccoli or other crunchy vegetables.

Veterinary nutritionist and internal medicine specialist Dr. Joe Bartges from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine and APOP Board member notes that weight gain in pets can be prevented. “Prevention of obesity is much easier than treating it. The major obstacle is to convince pet owners what “overweight” and “obese” means and what it looks like. Veterinary health teams must educate the owner and work with them to prevent and treat obesity in their four-legged family members.”

Fat Cats Not In the Conversation

Only 49% of surveyed cat owners reported their veterinarian had discussed obesity and excess weight with them compared to 72% of dog owners.  Even worse, only 46% of cat owners stated their veterinarian had reviewed nutrition or food choices compared to 86% of those with dogs. “This is a call to action for veterinarians; we must do a better job educating cat owners on obesity and preventive care.” says Dr. Ernie Ward.

Survey Notes

The survey was conducted at 41 US veterinary clinics and evaluated 459 dogs and 177 cats in October 2011. Veterinarians and veterinary technicians evaluated each pet to assess current weight, medical conditions, owner assessment of weight and body condition score. Over the five years studied, these results have proven to be consistent and increasing at a gradual pace.    

Additional Survey Highlights

·       According to APOP’s survey results based on pet statistics from the American Pet Products Association, the following are estimated numbers of overweight and obese pets in 2011.

o   41.1 million dogs classified as overweight or obese (BCS 4 or 5)

§  52% adult dogs classified as overweight or obese (BCS 4 or 5)

§  24.4 million dogs or 31% reported as overweight (BCS 4)

§  16.7 million dogs or 21% reported obese (BCS 5)

o   47.4 million cats classified as overweight or obese (BCS 4 or 5)

§  55% adult cats classified as overweight or obese (BCS 4 or 5)

§  25.9 million cats or 31% reported as overweight (BCS 4)

§  21.5 million cats or 21% reported obese (BCS 5)

·       Only 8% of dog owners and 9% of cat owners classified their pet as obese in the online study. That’s less than half the actual figures determined by survey veterinarians.  “The fact that few pet owners admit their pet is obese leads to a lack of interest in helping their pet lose weight. They know it’s a problem, just not for their pet. Unfortunately, the data doesn’t agree. Chances are their pet is overweight if not obese.” Dr. Ernie Ward

·       Average age of the cats in the study was 6.7 years and 6.4 years for dogs.

·       16.8% of pet owners reported they purchased their pet food at a veterinary clinic, 61.1% at a pet store and 22.2% at a grocery store.

·       76% of surveyed pet owners reported they learned about pet nutrition from their veterinarian, 71.5% from the internet, 22% from a pet store, 5.5% from a breeder, and 2.0% from a groomer. (multiple sources of information were allowed)

·       When it came to deciding which pet food to feed, 69.4% trusted their veterinarian, 36.3% a website, 20.6% a pet store, 4.4% a breeder, and 1.3% their groomer.

·       According to Dr. Ernie Ward, a 95-pound male Golden retriever is comparable to a 5’4” human female weighing 184 pounds or a 5’9” male that weighs 214 pounds.

·       A 10-pound Chihuahua is comparable to a 5’4” human female weighing 242 pounds or a 5’9” male that weighs 282 pounds.

·       A 15-pound domestic short-haired cat is comparable to a 5’4” human female weighing 218 pounds or a 5’9” male that weighs 254 pounds.

·       A premium pig ear (231 kcals) fed to a 40-pound dog is the equivalent of an adult human drinking six 12-ounce Coke Classics™ (840 kcals).

·       A typical dog biscuit (25 to 27 kcals) fed to a 20-pound dog is the equivalent of an average adult human eating two Keebler EL Fudge Double Stuffed Sandwich Cookies (180 kcals).

·       More weight and treat calculators can be found at www.PetObesityPrevention.org.

DOG - Body Condition Score


1 - Too Thin


2 - Thin


3 - Normal


4 - Overweight


5 - Obese


CAT - Body Condition Score


1 - Too Thin


2 - Thin


3 - Normal


4 - Overweight


5 - Obese


About APOP

Founded in 2005 by veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward, APOP’s mission is to create and promote awareness of pet obesity and to develop parallel weight loss programs designed to help pet owners lose weight alongside their pets.

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) has launched campaigns to fight pet obesity within the veterinary medical community, veterinary schools, and state and local veterinary organizations, and has reached out to various media outlets. APOP is made up of dedicated veterinarians and veterinary healthcare personnel committed to making the lives of dogs, cats, all other animals and people healthier and more vital.

APOP is not affiliated with any veterinary industry corporation or business in any manner. This neutrality is critical to our ability to provide unbiased information and advice to veterinary healthcare providers and the pet-loving public.                       

2010 Pet Obesity Survey Results

Pets with Obesity Getting More Obese According to Latest Survey

(Calabash, NC - February 23, 2011)

Over half the nation’s dogs and cats now overweight costing pet’s years and owners millions.

Obesity continues to expand in both pets and people according to the latest pet obesity study. The fourth annual Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Study found approximately 53% of cats and 55% of dogs were overweight or obese. Preliminary data released from a nationwide collaboration with Banfield, the nation's largest chain of veterinary clinics, reveals pet obesity continues to be a serious problem. APOP founder Dr. Ernie Ward remarks, "This year's data suggests that our pets are getting fatter. We're seeing a greater percentage of obese pets than ever before."

32% of cats in the preliminary sample were classified as overweight by their veterinarian and 21.6% were observed to be clinically obese or greater than 30% of normal body weight. 35% of dogs were found to be overweight and 20.6% obese. "While the general trend of overweight pets has remained fairly steady at around 50%, the number of obese pets is growing. This is troubling because it means more pets will be affected by weight-related diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease costing pet owners millions in avoidable medical costs."

The group began conducting nationwide veterinary surveys in 2007 and has seen a steady increase in the percentage of pets classified as obese or at least 30% above normal body weight. In 2007, roughly 19% of cats were found to be obese by their veterinarian and in 2010 that number increased to almost 225. For dogs, obesity rates escalated from just over 10% in 2007 to 20% in 2010. “One of the reasons we think the obesity rate for dogs has dramatically increased is due to a better understanding of what an obese dog looks like. Veterinarians also realize how critical it is to tell a pet owner when their dog is in danger due to its weight.” comments Ward.

Proof that pet obesity is an important topic among veterinarians is the fact that the nation’s largest group of veterinary clinics, Banfield Pet Hospital, joined APOP in this year’s study. “Banfield is committed to improving the health and well-being of pets—weight-related disorders are a major concern for us,” states Dr. Elizabeth Lund, a veterinary epidemiologist and Banfield’s Senior Director of Research. “Preventive care is at the core of Banfield’s mission and we are incorporating weight assessment and counseling into each patient visit.”  

Increased awareness can help prevent serious injuries. “As a surgeon, many of the joint problems I treat are related to excess weight. If pet owners could keep their pet at a normal weight, many of these surgeries could be avoided.” remarks Dr. Steven Budsberg of the University of Georgia and past-president of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. “Even more important is the impact obesity has on joints and the arthritic changes that are often crippling. Many overweight pets experience severe joint pain that could easily be prevented by proper diet and exercise.”       

Ward sums it up, “The bottom line with our annual surveys is that pets are battling excess weight just as their owners are. Our ultimate goal is to help pet owners better care for both themselves and their pets through better diet, exercise and lifestyle strategies.”

More information on pet obesity may be found at www.PetObesityPrevention.org.    

APOP Study Preliminary Data

133 adult cats

383 adult dogs

29 clinics representing 29 US states

average age of dogs 6 years, 2 months

average age ofcats 7 years, 4 months

Of the patients participating in the APOP survey on 10/13/2010, 35% of dogs and 31.6% of cats were overweight, while 20.6 and 21.8% were obese, respectively. Overall, 55.6% of dogs and 53.4% of cats were either overweight or obese.

From the initial dataset, 35% of dogs and 32.1% of cats were overweight and 20.6% of dogs and 21.6% of cats were obese. Overall, 55.6% of dogs and 53.7% of cats were either overweight or obese. 6.7% of cats were classified as "thin" or body condition score of 2. 5.2% of dogs were reported as BCS 2. No cats in the study were found to be "underweight" or BCS 1 while 0.26% of dogs were underweight.

Based on these initial estimates, approximately 50 million cats and 43 million dogs are believed to be overweight or obese. 

More complete data analysis will be available in a forthcoming peer-reviewed veterinary medical journal.

Body Condition Score (BCS)
1 = Underweight, 2 = Thin but Normal, 3 = Normal, 4 = Overweight, 5 = Obese

2009 Pet Obesity Survey Results

Preliminary 2009 Study Highlights

(February 16, 2010)

45% of all adult dogs were classified as overweight or obese by a veterinarian. In 2007 and 2008, 43% and 44% were estimated to be too heavy, respectively. 8.6% of all adult dogs were classified as obese. 39.5% of dogs over age 7 were found to be overweight or obese and 60.5% of dogs ages 1 to 7 were overweight or obese. 43% of study participants were male and 53% were female. 85% of all dogs were spayed or neutered. There appears to be a slow but steady increase in the number of overweight dogs based on the previous three years’ data.

58% of all adult cats were determined to be overweight or obese. In 2007 and 2008, 53% and 57% were estimated to be above ideal body weight, respectively. 21.4% of adult cats were classified as obese. 42% of cats over age 7 were overweight or obese and 58% of overweight cats were ages 1 to 7. 50% of study participants were female and 50% were male. 97% of cats were spayed or neutered. 100% of all male cats were neutered and 94% of females were spayed. Cats appear to be nearing a plateau

Based on this survey, approximately half of the nation’s pets are overweight or obese. This equals approximately 34.9 million dogs and 54.3 million cats that are too heavy. 6.7 million dogs and 8.1 million cats are now classified as clinically obese (body condition score 5).

33% of dog owners and 46% of cat owners with overweight pets classified their pet was a normal weight. 25% of dog owners with obese dogs reported their dog was normal while 40% of obese cat owners thought their cat was a normal weight. 33% of small dog (less than 23 lbs) owners thought their overweight dog was a normal weight compared to 41% of large dog (over 50 lbs) owners.

Owners of Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers were also more likely to claim their dog was a normal weight when it was overweight. 43% incorrectly identified their overweight retriever as normal while only 33% of small breed dog owners underestimated their dog’s weight. 46% of all Labradors and golden retrievers were determined to be overweight or obese. In general, owners of small breed dogs were more likely to correctly identify their dog as overweight than owners of large breed dogs.

One notable exception was dachshunds. 29% of dachshund owners identified their dog as normal weight when it was actually overweight or obese. 64% of dachshunds in the study were found to be overweight.

82% percent of pet owners agreed that pet obesity was a problem in the US.
90% of dog owners and 54% of cat owners responded that they gave their pets treats.

85% of dog owners reported they exercised their pet with walking being the most common form of activity (61%).

Almost 600 adult pets evaluated by 41 veterinary clinics.

2008 Pet Obesity Survey Results

Overweight or Obese (BCS 4-5) - 44.3%
Obese (BCS 5) - 9.6%

Overweight or Obese (BCS 4-5) - 57.4%
Obese (BCS 5) - 17.8%

2008 Pet Obesity Chart2.jpg
Overweigth and obese Pets 2007_2008.jpg

2007 Pet Obesity Survey Results

New Data Suggest Pet Obesity On the Rise

Calabash, NC – July 10, 2008.  A new nationwide study indicates that pet obesity continues to expand. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), almost half of the nation’s dogs and cats are now overweight or obese.  The group conducted the National Pet Obesity Awareness Day study in October 2007 and found 43% of all dogs and 53% of all cats were classified as overweight or obese by a veterinary healthcare provider; 10% of all dogs and 19% of all cats were classified as obese.

“The startling fact was the number of obese cats,” comments the study’s lead investigator and founder of APOP, Dr. Ernie Ward.  “We knew from a pilot study completed in early 2007 that obese cats were the fastest growing segment.  It is alarming that almost one-in-five US cats is now clinically obese.  This means we will continue to see an increase in cases of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and other weight-related diseases.”

The study also looked into pet owners’ assessment of their dog’s or cat’s weight. “We found that the majority of pet owners understand that their pet is too heavy,” notes Dr. Ward.  In fact, 63% of dog owners with overweight or obese canines classified their dog correctly and 73% of cat owners with flabby felines stated that their cat was overweight or obese.  “As we questioned pet owners further, we discovered that many of them had never been told that their dog or cat needed to shed a few pounds.  I believe that in order to win the war on obesity it must begin with bilateral communication: pet owners need to ask if their pet is too heavy and veterinarians need to tell owners when a pet is overweight.”

According to APOP estimates, this study indicates that as many as 32 million dogs and 46 million cats in the US are overweight or obese.  Almost 8 million dogs and 17 million cats are thought to be obese.

“Carrying a little extra weight isn’t a stable condition that’s simply annoying or unsightly.  Fat is biologically active tissue and an excess amount negatively impacts almost every body system,” states Dr. Ward.  “We’re in real danger of raising an entire generation of pets that will live a shorter life expectancy than the dogs and cats we enjoyed as children.”

The nationwide study was conducted in 98 small animal veterinary clinics and included 704 dogs and 282 cats.

This information written by Dr. Ernest Ward, Jr. Unauthorized duplication or reproduction without
expressed written permission is prohibited.