Pet Obesity: Crunching the Numbers

Health and Fitness

October is pet obesity awareness month and it is the perfect time to review some of the key statistics and information related to pet obesity.  I would argue that the single most impactful thing that pet owners can do to improve the health of their pet is to feed their pet smarter.  Too much food and too little exercise leads to obesity and a plethora of weight related ailments.

Obesity is a major problem in the U.S., with near 70% of the adult population reportedly overweight or obese according to the CDC.  Unfortunately, our pets are following our lead in this regard.  According to the research conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) and reported earlier in 2015, 53% of all dogs and 58% of all cats are overweight or obese.  In terms of the total number of fat pets, there are near 44 million fat dogs and 55 million fat cats in the U.S.  This is completely unacceptable because the human pet parent is in control of their pet’s diet and they should be able to do a better job feeding their pets.

While the public awareness of this problem has increased since APOP began reporting their research in 2012 (for 2011), the overall trends toward fat pets has not improved much at all.  For comparison, in 2011, 53% of dogs and 55% of cats were overweight or obese.

Although pet owners are more aware of the problem, the problem is not getting better, in part due to what APOP calls the “fat gap”.  The fat gap is defined as the percentage of pet owners who have overweight pets that did not believe that their pet was in fact, overweight.  In the most recent data, a full 95% of dog owners with fat dogs and 90% of cat owners with fat cats thought that their pets were at an acceptable weight.   Such denial is no doubt a big reason why the pet obesity problem has persisted.

APOP Fat Gap

2013

2014

Dogs

93%

95%

Cats

88%

90%

Percentage of pet owners thinking their overweight pet was not fat.

Applying these ‘denial’ numbers to our totals, we find that about 40 million dogs and 50 million cats have owners that are unaware that there is a problem.  We can do better than that.