For the past ten years the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) has conducted an annual survey to examine Pet Obesity levels in the United States. Their findings have been a wake-up call for many pet owners and veterinarians regarding the issue of obesity in our pets, but unfortunately that hasn’t translated into a reduction in the number of overweight pets.
Petnet believes that healthy pets start with educated owners. It’s one of the reasons we developed our automated feeder and food scoring program, to provide guidance to pet owners on healthy food options and proper feeding amounts.
We believe this study has important information to share with our readers and we will be examining some of the findings over the next few weeks.
“Obesity is the number one health threat pets face, and the most important pet health decision owners make each day is what and how much they feed.”
— Dr. Ernie Ward, Founder
First, let’s take a look at the methodology of the study so we can understand the knowledge, expertise and methodology behind the findings.
APOP was founded in 2005 by a veterinarian, Dr. Ernie Ward. The stated mission of APOP is “developing and promoting parallel weight loss programs designed to help pet owners safely and effectively lose weight alongside their pets.” Each year since 2007, APOP has conducted a study on the prevalence of overweight and obese pets in the U.S.
The study was conducted by APOP who enlisted veterinary practices across the country. The vets assessed the body condition scores of every dog and cat patient they examined for a regular wellness checkup on a given day during the study period. They were asked to classify the pets as underweight, thin, ideal, overweight or obese.
The 2017 survey included the assessment of 1,610 dogs and 714 cats by 178 veterinary clinics.
The second part of the study was an online questionnaire examining veterinarian’s and pet owner’s opinions regarding a variety of pet food issues such as benefits of dry vs. wet (canned) feeding, is it harmful to feed your pet ‘people’ food, and the value of nutritional supplements for your pets.
This portion of the study was completed by 1,215 pet owners and 544 veterinary professionals from October 11 to December 31, 2017.
Unfortunately, the results of the survey are not promising with 56% of dogs and 60% of cats classified as overweight by their veterinary healthcare professional. These ratings were based on the body condition score of overweight = (BCS 6-7) or obese = (BCS 8-9).
Based on pet population estimates from the American Pet Products Association, these findings mean that over 50 million dogs and 56 million cats in the United States are above a healthy weight. And it’s trending higher. In the initial study in 2007, Dr. Ward and his team found that 43% of all dogs and 53% of all cats were classified as overweight or obese by their veterinarian. That figure has continued to creep higher each year and it’s even worsening with a higher percentage of our pets in the obese category than ever before.
“The number of pets with clinical obesity continues to increase.” states APOP Founder, veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward. “We’re continuing to see more pets diagnosed with obesity rather than overweight.”
Many pet owners seem to be unaware of the correlation between their pet’s weight and their diet and overall health. They don’t seem to be mindful that, just as with humans, our pets are susceptible to many related health issues if they are overweight and even more if that crosses the line into obesity.
“Clinical obesity results in more secondary conditions such as arthritis, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and certain forms of cancer. Pets with obesity also have reduced quality of life and shorter life expectancy.” Dr. Ernie Ward
Over the next few weeks, we are going to take a closer look at the owner survey portion regarding some of the popular food issues we outlined above. Our goal will be to dissect these issues and present supporting facts to help you make the best choices for your pet to keep him/her in peak health.