The Pet Obesity Epidemic

According to this graph, obesity rates have shot up significantly since 2010.

Pet Obesity Prevention

According to this graph, obesity rates have shot up significantly since 2010.

Arya Banerjee, Photo Journalist

Obesity is a major public health problem, affecting millions of people worldwide. It’s a condition in which an individual has excessive body fat that can lead to serious health problems such as diabetes, cardio disease, and certain cancers. 


What is less commonly stressed is that it’s also affecting our pets. According to AAHA, researchers found a higher percentage of pets were affected by obesity in 2019 than previously reported years: 51% of the 1.9 million adult dogs seen at Banfield Pet Hospital were classified as overweight. Even more so, less than 10% of those pets actually lose weight after receiving their diagnoses,; and even if a pet did lose weight, roughly 40% gained it back within 12 months. These statistics are shocking. Obesity is a serious disease that can result in consequential health conditions, such as Endocrinopathies, metabolic abnormalities, cardiovascular disease, and functional alterations such as joint disorders and decreased immune functions. These conditions are dangerous and don’t lead to a happy or healthy lifestyle.


It can be hard for people to understand the gravity of their pet’s diagnosis of obesity; and what I think people struggle with is understanding how their animal feels. Being obese is extremely uncomfortable. You are generally in more pain and feel more sluggish than you should. My dog, for example, was diagnosed as obese last year; and after hearing her diagnosis I realized that she had been showing signs of irritability in the 6 months leading up to her appointment. She looked sad most days and never wanted to play or go on hikes like she used to. Now that my family has gotten her weight to a healthy place, she’s doing all the old things she did when she was a puppy. Your pet likely won’t be happy being obese. They may be happy in the one second they’re eating that table scrap, but the aftermath only worsens their mood.


I think the other thing people struggle with is understanding that pets are animals. They have an innate hunting mentality and are technically supposed to always be hungry. People think they’re doing their pets favors by giving them table scraps and treats when in reality that’s only going to make them sick and uncomfortable. Pets are exactly like children, shares Nicole Slack (11), if your child were to ask for a cookie after every meal, just as how a dog begs for food at every meal, and you were to give your child that cookie, your child would immediately gain weight and face the consequences of it. It’s the same exact thing with pets.


Pets are supposed to be under human care and frankly, people are letting them down. Obesity is not healthy and it’s not something that should be normalized. Pets deserve for their owners to care enough to do research and understand the science behind certain diagnoses, especially common ones like obesity. 


A few ways I was able to help my dog get back to her normal weight was by running with her down the street instead of walking her. And if your dog doesn’t like to run, then try enticing them with a treat or toy. Another way to help is to get your dog on a walking routine. Commit to taking your dog on a walk every hour regardless of what’s going on. It not only benefits your animal but it can also benefit you because you’ll be able to take healthy and consistent breaks from working. 


It’s up to the owners of animals to make sure their pets are safe and healthy; and according to the statistics, people aren’t living up to that. Obesity is not healthy. It’s an uncomfortable way to live and animals don’t deserve to have to deal with it. If your animal is obese, take action to help them, because their health is your responsibility.