pet obesity reaching crisis point

PFMA Pet Obesity Report 2014: A Nation of Fat Cats and Dogs

A new pet obesity report, ‘Pet Obesity: Five Years On’ published by the PFMA (Pet food manufacturers’ association) uncovers how the problem of pet obesity has developed over the past five years.

Despite various awareness campaigns, reports and incentives, each year there seems to be an upward trend in the prevalence of pet obesity. Obesity in pets is a real problem and contributes towards much worse health conditions including arthritis, diabetes and heart disease. Despite this 63% of owners say there are more important health risks than obesity.

PFMA’s Pet Obesity: Five Years On, includes data gathered from 1,000 UK pet owner’s on their attitude towards crucial aspects of what is contributing to the growing problem of pet obesity.

Veterinary Professionals’ Opinion on Pet Obesity

77% of vets say that obesity in cats, dogs, birds and rabbits has risen since 2009, when PFMA published their first report on pet obesity.

The number of overweight pets seen by vets has increased dramatically over the past few years. Current veterinary opinion is that 45% of dogs and 40% of the cats they see are overweight. Compare this to a PDSA study from 2007 where the number of overweight pets was found to be between 13-28% across various parts of the UK.

Although there are many reasons why a pet can become overweight, 78% of vets believed that feeding human food as a treat or giving leftovers were the root causes of obesity in dogs. Many owners are unaware of the representative portion size of human foods when given to their pets.

“Overweight pets, like humans, can suffer from a myriad of health issues such as osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. There is nothing ‘cuddly’ about an overweight pet. Obesity is a disease in itself. It causes discomfort and illness that can result in both emotional distress and financial pressure for owners, and it has also been proven to reduce actual life length. We must continue pushing the pet health message until overweight pets are no longer an increasing and widespread concern.”

Zara Boland BVSc BE MRCVS, Founder of Vet Voice on overweight pets.

Do you know how to check if your pet is overweight?

A startling 37% of pet owners don’t know how to check if their pet is overweight and 30% have never checked their pet’s weight!

One quick and easy way to check your pet’s weight is a visual inspection to determine their body condition score (BCS). For more information on how to body score your dog, see our guide here.

The PFMA also has handy visual references to assist you with checking your pet’s weight. See here for their ‘Dog Size-O-Meter’ or ‘Cat Size-O-Meter’.

Of course, you could also track your pet’s weight. To get the best results from this method, you’ll want to know your pet’s ideal weight. Your pet’s ideal weight will vary depending on breed, age, sex and other factors, so you might want to consult your vet to get the most accurate estimate. You can use our Pet Health & Weight Tools Suite to track your pet’s improvement over time.

Another way to check your pet’s weight is to measure their BMI (body mass index), although this method is controversial and not the most accurate. There is even debate surrounding its use in humans. Click here to measure your pet’s BMI.

Professional Feeding Guidelines on Portion Size

68% of pet owners do not follow feeding guidelines for their pet.

Just like humans, pets have a recommended calorific intake. But due to the wide variations between breeds and sexes, there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation. On the reverse of any reputable pet food or treat, there will be a recommended serving size based on your pet’s size/weight.

See our pet food feeding advice guide here.

To help you understand how many calories your pet needs, try our feline calorie calculator or our canine calorie counter. These will give you a good estimate of how many calories your pet needs to maintain weight, as well as lose weight.

If your pet food doesn’t give suggested serving sizes or its calorie content, you can use our calorie content calculator. This will show you how many calories are in your pet’s food or treats based on the analytical constituents or guaranteed analysis. This is required by EU law and can be found on the back of all pet foodstuffs.

48% of owners feed their pets treats more than twice a day. Find out how many calories are in those treats. This is much higher than results from the PDSA Animal Wellbeing report from 2013, which found that significantly fewer dog owners were giving their dog a daily treat – 35% (2013) reduced from 42% (2011).

Human Food and Pets

36% of owners treat pets with potentially unsuitable human food.

As pets have a lower calorie requirement than humans, what seems like a small treat from us is likely to be adding on those pet pounds. PFMA makes the comparison: one cookie for a human is the equivalent to two for a dog. One slice of cheese for a human is the equivalent to nine for a cat!

Whilst not all human food is bad for our pets (such as vegetables and nutritionally formulated raw diets), some are potentially toxic. One of the major causes of poisoning in pets is excessive consumption of chocolate. Click here to see why chocolate is bad for pets.  For more toxic human foods, see our list of common poisons for pets.

Exercise is Important for Your Pet Too

31% of owners provide at least an hour of exercise for their pet.

Veterinarians recommend at least 60 minutes of exercise split across two sessions for dogs and a total of 40 minutes a day for cats. The fact that a third of pet owners are giving their pets this amount of exercise is good news, but there is definitely still a lot of room for improvement.

Further Reading

Thanks to PFMA in association for LM Research for conducting this study, if you’d like to read more about the PFMA see here.

To get involved with the PFMA’s #GetPetsFit initiative see the Facebook group here.

There are also various resources available from their Weight in Wednesday page here.

The original report from 2009: Pet Obesity: The reality in 2009 

The updated 2014 report: Pet Obesity: Five Years On 


About James Watts

BSc Bioveterinary Science. Editor of PetSci. When I'm not writing, learning, discussing, or reading about animals, you know it's the weekend! Currently developing PetSci HealthTrak, the fast and easy way to monitor your pet's weight and calorie intake. HealthTrak offers a simple way to track your pet's progress, helping them achieve a healthy weight and a long, happy life.

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