Pet Obesity Rates Rise During the Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on the pet industry.  With most people working from home, the number of dogs and cats purchased and adopted saw a huge surge in the last ten months.  While that was a ray of sunshine in the otherwise dismal news, pet owners have showered their pets with extra love and treats which has increased pet obesity rates.

It is certainly understandable.  It’s hard to get work done when a hungry cat or interfering dog gets in your way on Zoom meetings!

A new study reveals that pets have gained weight during Covid-19

Since many pet parents are feeding their pets extra treats, veterinarians say this can be a cause for concern as pet obesity rates rise. A recent study from Hill’s Pet Nutrition  says that one-third of pet owners report that their animals have gained weight during the pandemic.

Obesity isn’t merely about their pets’ weight but having an overweight pet can lead to other health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and pancreatitis.

Too many treats during these trying times are the main culprit for pet obesity

The study also revealed that while anxious parents are eating more, they are feeding their fur kids extra treats as well.  It can be hard to deprive our pets that have provided us with so much comfort during this time.

And with the holidays just behind us, six in ten veterinarians anticipate the dogs and cats they see in February are more likely to be overweight or obese.

It can be difficult to manage a pet’s weight

According to the study, most pet parents (52%) think it is easy to help their dogs or cats lose weight, but veterinarians disagree, with 91% saying it’s harder than owners think.

However, those with overweight pets (31% with overweight dogs and 24% with overweight cats) feel it’s harder to help their pet lose weight compared to before Covid-19, and 49% of veterinarians agree it’s harder for pet parents to keep their pets at a healthy weight during the pandemic than before.

Pet obesity has been a problem for years

While overweight pets have been a persistent problem for years, the pandemic certainly hasn’t made things any easier.

Lindsey E. Bullen, DVM, Diplomate ACVN, a veterinary nutritionist with BluePearl, says overfeeding and lack of exercise is to blame.

“People are spending more time at home with their pets, which makes overfeeding and overtreating a greater possibility,” she says.

“On the other hand, owners who are more likely to get up and move may be taking on more of an active role regarding their pet’s activity levels. This means more walks and playtime.”

Further, Dr. Bullen adds, those having a tough time finding suitable work-life balance may be spending less time with their pets and compensating for this by giving them more treats.

“Unfortunately, these modern-day realities can and likely will negatively impact pet weight.”

Pet parents have a hard time with getting their pets to lose weight

As easy as it is for pets to put on weight, it’s harder for them to take it off.  Even with pet parents being strict and monitoring their pets’ food, it can be hard for pets to lose weight.

Some tips that pet owners can try to help control their pets’ weight:

  • Be mindful when giving pets human food.  Even when given in small quantities, it can add up to a pet’s daily caloric intake and could cause digestive issues.
  • When your dog or cat begs for food, try playing with your dog or cat to see if they just want your attention.
  • For dogs, make sure that they get their walks in daily or even better, add an extra walk.  For cats, play time is essential.  Use toys and pointed laser toys to get your cats to run around rather than sleeping all day long.
  • Weigh your pets once a week if you are trying to get them to lose weight.  Sometimes measuring your dog or cat’s food isn’t enough and is not the true indicator.
  • Choose healthy treats.  Treats should be less than 10 percent of a pet’s total daily caloric intake.
  • Include the whole family. Make sure everyone in your home is aware of the dog or cat’s eating schedule and portion amount.