Pet Obesity – Stats and Information

A hot topic at the moment, pet obesity is on the rise! We’re all prone to giving one or two extra treats, which is fine, but there has to be a limit or you could be doing untold damage to your pet’s health.

Pet Obesity Infographic

Dog and Cat Obesity

It’s fun to laugh and coo over pictures of portly pets on the internet, but the sad reality is that obesity is as much of a health risk for pets as it is for humans. Most of us understand our own dietary needs, but we’re in the dark as to how pet nutrition works. On a steady diet of table scraps and a bowl of dry food always down for the picking, nearly 100-million pets or more in the US have become obese.

Just like humans, pets can suffer from heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and even cancers associated with obesity. An extra pound may not be so bad on a human, but it’s huge on a small animal. Imagine the weight of four sticks of butter piled onto your pet’s back for every extra pound of weight they carry. It adds up quickly and taxes every body system. Obesity can cut 2-1/2 years off of your pet’s life expectancy.

A fundamental contributor to the pet obesity problem is not understanding how much our pets actually need to eat. An average dog will act starving even after having gorged himself nearly sick. Cats will often have a little more discretion when it comes to overeating, but even Puss can get pudgy. In fact, cats are more likely to be obese than dogs. 22% of cats in the United States are obese versus 20% of dogs.

Many products now advertise their calorie counts, but it isn’t helpful if you don’t know your pet’s needs. 45 calories a treat may sound like an invitation to give your pet a heaping handful of snacks, but for a little Yorkshire terrier, four treats is their entire daily calorie need. Our graphic can give you an idea of the caloric needs of different pet breeds.

Certain dog breeds, like the corgi, may even have a genetic predisposition to overeating. In the case of the corgi, their ancestors out in the pastures never knew when their next meal was coming. The ones that ate everything they could when they had the chance were more likely to survive. Now, even though your stubby-legged friend gets daily meals, his genetics don’t tell him to stop when he’s full.

Furthermore, the ingredients in your pet’s food can have a huge impact on weight. Half a can of one brand may have a very different calorie count than another. Pet treats are often loaded with sugary fillers that aren’t filling and offer nothing nutritionally. Think of them as pet candy bars. Consider what table scraps you toss down, too. That steak gristle is pure fat.

If your pet is packing on the pounds, talk to your veterinarian about a healthy weight loss regimen. Obese cats needs special care to avoid fatty liver syndrome, and all pets still need proper nutrition as the calories are scaled back. You are in control of your pet’s diet, and simple changes can vastly improve your pet’s quality of life for years to come.

  1. Excellent post. The mom swears it’s the high amount of inappropriate carbs (grains) in cat foods, especially, that is causing a host of health and dental issues. Rather like humans who have a high carb diet (and who aren’t athletes who burn it all off). 🙂

  2. This is an awesome infographic. I think for a lot of pet owners this is a very sensitive issue, because of the association of treats with love – “but the more I feed them, the more I love them!” A better way to show your pet love is to keep them healthy!

    I was overfeeding my dog (a lab) at one stage. When I got my act together I remember feeling tremendous guilt around withholding treats – as though I was being a bad pet owner. But health is the priority so thanks for spreading the word in a creative and fun way!

  3. Purina did a study some years ago showing that “dogs who ate Purina Dog Chow as directed” lived up to 2.5 years longer. Actually, the study had nothing to do with Purina, but with the practice of feeding limited quantities of food at specified mealtimes, rather than leaving food down all day for a pig-out puppy buffet.

    Misleading ads aside, it’s a good study. Feed too much, and feed food containing corn, is a good way to shorten your dog’s life. As for cats, they should never eat dry food at it. Dry food is at the heart of kidney and bladder disease. And corn for both species leads to diabetes and a host of expensive problems in addition to obesity.

  4. Thanks for putting these infographics together! They are so helpful and resourceful! Glad to be able to share something like this amoung the pet blogger community!

  5. Another excellent set of facts and diagrams, made simple to follow….I find that having dressed males and females are the hardest to keep at the appropriate weight even on an ongoing diet…

  6. Awesome graphic, Matt! I recently learned that mixing moist cat food with extra water (can be quite soupy even) gives cat the water they need with their meal.

  7. You have done it again! The combination of excellent information, delivered in a straight ahead, easily understandable format. Plus the whimsical visuals. I luv the graphics Matt! Keep up the greaat work! and yes, I definitely want to post this to my blog….with your permission of course.

  8. This is a great infographic!

    I just wanted to point out one thing for cat owners: At the end of the graphic it says that a sagging stomach is a sign of your pet being overweight. Although this is true in some cases, there are some breeds of cat that have a “primordial pouch”, which is essentially a pouch skin/ fat on the stomach. It’s perfectly normal and doesn’t indicate that the cat is overweight, it can even occur in skinny bengal cats. In these cases, it’s best to use the other advice about feeling the ribs and the visible waist.

  9. It is also important to have a vet who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. My best friend’s lab was on her way to obesity and her vet just told her that she would never have a skinny dog and didn’t do anything about it. My comments fell on deaf ears. When an illness came on her quickly she went along with me to our vet and I knew weight would come up in the conversation. Sure enough he said that he wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t tell her what he thought and he went on to suggest weight reducing food, treats and to enrol her in a free check up and reassessment program with lots of printed information and her own progress graph. What a great program! So far she has lost 10 pounds and the results are dramatic! She isn’t hungry, still enjoys treats and fruits and veggies and is the life of the party. Now we adults want to get on the family plan!