Survey finds connection between pet, childhood obesity

CALABASH, N.C. — It seems that Fluffy is getting a little fluffy as a new survey indicates that pet obesity is on the rise, particularly among cats.

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found in its sixth annual National Pet Obesity Awareness Day survey that 52.5% of dogs and 58.3% of cats were overweight or obese, meaning that about 80 million dogs and cats are at increased risk for weight-related disorders such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure and cancers. The survey included 1,485 dogs and 450 cats.

"Pet obesity remains the leading health threat to our nation's pets," APOP founder and lead veterinarian Ernie Ward said. "We continue to see an escalation in the number of overweight cats and an explosion in the number of Type 2 diabetes cases."

Still, about 45.8% of dog owners and 45.3% of cat owners viewed their pets as having normal body weight after veterinarians pronounced them overweight. Certain breeds showed greater risk for excess weight, with 58.9% of Labrador retrievers and 62.7% of golden retrievers classified as overweight or obese. German shepherds had the lowest obesity rate among purebred dogs, at 2.1%.

The survey also finds a connection between pet and childhood obesity rates, with both stemming from the same cause: too many unhealthy foods and snacks and too little physical activity.

"Parents need to encourage children to put down their video games and pick up the dog leash to go for a walk," Ward said. "Instead of snacking on sugary treats, share crunchy vegetables with your dog. Eat more whole foods instead of highly processed fast food."