Fat Cat, Fatter Dog: Half of U.S. Pets Obese or Overweight

Feb 23, 2011· 1 MIN READ
Salvatore Cardoni holds a political science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.
Waiting for the dinner bell. (Photo: Vandelizer/Flickr)

Like owner, like pet.

More than half of America's 170 million dogs and cats—that's 93 million pets—are overweight or obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Likewise, in 2010, more than six in 10 American adults were either overweight or obese.

Unfortunately, faulty locks on treat jars—allowing coy dogs and slick cats to over-indulge while their unsuspecting owners are at work—are not the culprit. Obesity among pets falls squarely on the shoulders of their well-meaning (and often similarly proportioned) masters.

The true fat facilitators are pet owners who over-feed their pets and/or don’t exercise them enough.

That combo leads pets to suffer from many of the same maladies that afflict extra-large humans—diabetes, kidney failure, and cancer.

The epidemic isn’t cheap. Last year, pet owners holding insurance policies with Veterinary Pet Insurance Company dished out more than $25 million.

"Obesity in pets is almost the equivalent of smoking in human medicine," said Steven Budsberg, director of clinical research at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, to the Wall Street Journal. "There's the high cost to people, and it's self-induced."

'Why do you need a pot-bellied pig when you have me?' (Photo: Dan Perry/Flickr)

A breakdown of the study reveals just how fat our furry companions are:

—32 percent of cats were classified as overweight, and 21.6 percent were seen as being clinically obese (greater than 30 percent of normal body weight)

—35 percent of dogs were found to be overweight, and 20.6 percent were obese.

The good news, reports The Huffington Post, is that polled vets feel the obesity epidemic is “the most preventable pet health crisis facing the U.S.”

Dogs should get up to 30 minutes of brisk walking every day, as well as 5 to 15 minutes of shorter activities, like chasing a toy.