1 Out Of 3 Dogs And Cats Are Overweight And It’s Costing Us

They say over time you and your dog may start looking like each other, as the BBC reported. Well, at first glance, dogs and cats seem to be just mirroring the human obesity epidemic. Over the past decade, dogs and cats have been getting more and more overweight, according to the recently released Banfield Pet Hospital’s 2017 State of Pet Health. However, a closer look suggests that dogs and cats aren’t just simply mirroring their owners. The geographic distribution of overweight dogs and cats is not quite the same as the geographic distribution of overweight humans.

The Banfield report summarized their BARK Research Team‘s analyses of data on over 2.5 million dogs and 505,000 cats from Banfield’s 975 veterinary hospitals that span 42 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Based on the report, since 2007, the number of overweight dogs has increased by 158%. And cat lovers have gotten more cat per cat with a 169% increase in the number of overweight cats.

Now, more cat per cat may seem great for Instagram pictures or YouTube videos showing a Garfield-like cat rolling around like a beach ball. Just search YouTube for “fat cat” and you’ll get plenty of videos such as this one:

But being overweight hurts your cat (or your dog if you swing that way). As with humans, obesity has serious health consequences for dogs and cats but what’s even worse is that they may be suffering in silence because you don’t speak cat or dog. You can’t hear your cat or dog saying “ugh, walking up those stairs was tough” or “I feel terrible” or “this is really affecting my self-esteem” or “you suck as an owner.” As with humans, obesity can increase the risk of numerous chronic diseases among cats and dogs such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, or various respiratory diseases. Indeed, the report found an 82% increase in arthritis and an 83% increase in tracheal collapse among dogs.

Therefore, just like the human obesity epidemic, the dog and cat obesity epidemic is costing people more money as quantified by the Banfield report. Over a four year period, owners of an overweight dog spend 17% more in healthcare costs and 25% more on medications. That’s a total of $2,026 more per year. For overweight cats, owners spend 36% more on diagnostic procedures and $1,178 more overall per year.

Doesn’t this sound just like the human obesity epidemic…except that the magnitude and costs of the human epidemic are much higher? Sort of. There may be some differences. As Karin Brulliard reports for the Washington Post, the map of dog and cat obesity doesn’t seem to match that of human obesity exactly. For example, Minnesota had the highest percentage of overweight dogs (41%) and cats (46%), even though Minnesota has lower obesity rates than about half the states in U.S. as this map on the MinnPost shows. Nebraska had the second highest dog and cat overweight rates (39% and 43%) while states like Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, which have had some of highest human obesity and overweight rates, ranked on the exact opposite end of the pet list.

Follow me on Twitter @bruce_y_lee and visit our Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC)at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Read my other Forbes pieces here.

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