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The Pet Obesity Epidemic

Just like humans, pets can suffer serious consequences if they are overweight or obese.

Ciara's Column - January 2020

Pet obesity is of major clinical concern in the UK and can lead to several health issues such as arthritis and diabetes so it’s important to keep your pet’s weight in check.

Overweight pets typically have a lower quality of life too – and can die younger than those with healthy weights. A recent study by the University of Liverpool and published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine** showed how overweight dogs could lose over 2 years lifespan.

Pet Obesity: The Facts***

  • Vets and vet nurses estimate that up to half of UK pets (46% of dogs, 34% of cats and 30% of rabbits) that they see in their practice every week are overweight or obese*
  • 4 million (2.4 million dogs, 1.5 million cats and 30,000 rabbits) are fed table scraps or leftovers as one of their main types of food.****
  • 80% owners stated their dog was an ideal weight, but 40% didn’t know their actual weight or body condition score.
  • 74% owners stated their cat was an ideal weight, but 65% didn’t know their actual weight or body condition score.
  • 83% owners stated their rabbit was an ideal weight, but 77% didn’t know their actual weight or body condition score.
  • Vet professionals estimated that 47% of overweight and obese dogs seen have health issues which could be related to weight*
  • 34% of vet professionals felt the number of overweight or obese cats they see in their practise has increased over the last two years.*
  • Inappropriate diet is the most common rabbit health concern amongst veterinary professionals


  • 5 million UK pets (3.3 million dogs, 2.1 million cats and 140,000 rabbits) are fed treats (including crisps, cake, cheese, chips, takeaways and chocolate) every day.
  • 41% cat owners feed treats because they believe food makes them happy.
  • 12% rabbit owners feed treats because they feel guilty about leaving them alone.


  • 89,000 dogs are never exercised
  • In a 24 hour period, on average rabbits spend 12 hours in their hutch.
  • 4% of cats (440,000) have no opportunities to exercise every day**

Do you have an overweight pet?

If so, make their weight loss your New Year’s Resolution so you can help your pets live long and healthy lives.

We can help!

A veterinary examination is always advised:

  • To determine if your pet is a healthy weight
  • Or suffering from issues secondary to obesity
  • If your pet’s weight is due to an underlying disease

Our nurses hold regular weight clinics for clients offering:

  • Guidance on maintaining a healthy weight for your pet
  • Help with a weight loss plan
l.*British Veterinary Association (BVA) and British Veterinary Nurse Association (BVNA) Voice of the Profession Surveys (included in the PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report 2018) showed that on average vets and vet nurses estimated that 46% of dogs, 34% of cats and 30% of rabbits that they see in their practice every week are overweight or obese.
l.** Salt C et al (2018) Association between life span and body condition in neutered client-owned dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 2018; 1-11.   
l.*** All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size for the pet owners’ survey was 4,639 dog, cat and rabbit owners aged 18+ who live in the UK. Fieldwork was undertaken between 9 and 19 January, 2018.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of the population by pet species (cat, dog or rabbit owners) and the owner’s gender, age and region.
l.Extrapolations to pet population figures are based on the following estimates of pet populations in the UK: 11.1 million cats, 8.9 million dogs and 1.0 million rabbits.
l.**** From the PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report 2016