The second annual National Pet Obesity Day Study found that from 2007 to 2008 the number of overweight dogs and cats increased by 1% and 4%, respectively. The study was conducted in October 2008 and used data collected by 95 US veterinary clinics. Obesity rates in cats were highest at 17.8%; dogs were slightly better with 9.6% classified as obese. Approximately 39.6% of all cats and 34.7% of dogs were classified as overweight by a veterinary healthcare provider. This translates into 7.2 million dogs that are estimated to be obese and 26 million overweight, and 15.7 million cats estimated to be obese and 35 million overweight.
"Pet obesity continues to emerge as a leading cause of preventable disease and death in dogs and cats. Our pets are in real danger of not living as long as previous generations and developing serious and costly diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, and other largely avoidable conditions," states lead researcher Dr. Ernie Ward.
Smaller breeds of dogs had more trouble with their weight than larger breeds. Breeds such as Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, and Yorkshire terriers were more likely to be classified as overweight than Labrador retrievers, Golden retrievers, or German shepherds. Older animals had a higher incidence of being overweight; 52.1% of dogs and 55% of cats over age seven were found to be overweight or obese.
"This is a particularly concerning discovery for veterinarians. Extra pounds in older pets amplify any pre-existing conditions and complicate treatment. We’re seeing more and more diabetes, respiratory, and arthritic conditions in older pets as a direct result of obesity. These are often chronic, incurable, and generally preventable diseases. Pet owners need to understand that a few extra pounds on a dog or cat is similar to a person being 30 to 50 pounds overweight," says Dr. Ward.