Helping clients understand the pet obesity epidemic

  |   Animal Health


The human-animal bond has never been stronger. COVID-19 has led to national discussions about what potential long-term impacts quarantine might have on our pets, including extra pounds and anticipating separation anxiety upon return to the workplace. New data pulled from Banfield Pet Hospital’s® electronic veterinary health records system confirms suspicions of weightier pets over the past year. A wider look shines a spotlight on an even more concerning reality that many of us in the profession have been trying to tackle for years: diagnoses of overweight and obesity in cats and dogs have been occurring in epidemic proportions long before quarantine.

Analyzing the health records of millions of pets seen at the practice each year, over the past decade Banfield saw a 108% increase in the percentage of dogs diagnosed as overweight or obese, jumping from 16% in 2011 to 34% in 2020. The increase seen in cats was even greater: 114%, jumping from 18% in 2011 to 38% in 2020. When looking at data from March 2020 to December 2020, dogs diagnosed as overweight or obese rose 2.3%, the largest increase in overweight/obese canines seen at Banfield in the past 10 years.

Overweight and obese diagnosis linked to other health concerns

We know that dogs and cats diagnosed as overweight or obese are more likely to suffer from other serious conditions, including skin infections and respiratory conditions. When looking at data from 2020, Banfield found overweight dogs were 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with orthopedic conditions, or mobility issues related to bone and joint injuries. According to Banfield’s 2021 Veterinary Emerging Topics (VET)™ Report, more than 150,000 dogs every year are diagnosed with Osteoarthritis (OA), a chronic, progressive joint disease caused by inflammation and damage to joint tissue, with weight being a key factor.

Through our research we also uncovered a sobering trend: OA appears to play a notable role in the owners’ decision to euthanize their pet. Our research found that within six months of an OA diagnosis, approximately 5% of dogs and 10% of cats are euthanized. In those cases, OA contributed to the owner’s decision to euthanize in 40.5% of these dogs and 27.5% of these cats.

There are actions hospital teams can take to address these trends. Remember to make proactive recommendations and follow the suggested toolkit for primary care veterinary teams, including:

  • An orthopedic exam on every patient, every visit. An orthopedic exam can help identify OA onset earlier and enable management that supports joint health — potentially delaying the need for additional therapy.
  • Pet weight monitoring, every visit. Have conversations with owners before or in the early stages of weight gain about the importance of weight on a pet’s overall health.
  • Radiographs and other diagnostic tools. These tools can facilitate earlier diagnosis and management in a timely manner.

Client communication tool for veterinary professionals

Pet owners often don’t recognize excess weight as an urgent issue. These can be difficult conversations to have, especially if clients don’t want to acknowledge their pet may be overweight.

To better understand key barriers to managing their pet’s weight, Banfield surveyed 1,000 U.S. owners with pets that have been diagnosed by a veterinarian as, or who consider their pets to be, overweight or obese. Concerningly, 93% of respondents said they have faced hurdles in maintaining a healthy weight for their pet, including:

  • Giving in when pets beg for food or treats (46%)
  • Not knowing the best strategies for weight loss (30%)
  • Trouble exercising their pet due to their own health or mobility issues (29%) and not having enough time for exercise (26%)
  • Not paying enough attention to their pet’s diet (23%)

We as a profession have an opportunity to continue to raise awareness about this serious issue impacting the growing number of pets in the U.S. This starts with establishing strong partnerships with clients and creating personalized solutions. This infographic can help you offer clients a potentially new way to think about what extra pounds mean for their pet.

By leveraging data, we can provide more helpful and personalized solutions for pets and their owners. It’s about helping people understand that even small adjustments at home can have long-term impacts on their pet’s health and happiness – and we as veterinary professionals are here to support them along the way.

Source: Banfield Pet Hospitals


Posted August 27, 2021