VANCOUVER, Wash., June 21, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- From noticing extra pounds on their cats and dogs to anticipating separation anxiety upon return to the workplace, owners are wondering how the pandemic might impact their pets long-term. New data pulled from Banfield Pet Hospital's® electronic veterinary health records system – the largest in the U.S. – confirms suspicions of weightier pets over the past year. A wider look shines a spotlight on an even more concerning reality: 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.
"At Banfield, our goal is to provide high-quality preventive care to the more than 3 million pets we see each year, and this includes equipping owners with tools and resources to help their pets live happy, healthy lives," said Molly McAllister, chief medical officer of Banfield. "We want pet owners to know that you are not alone in managing your pet's weight. You can partner with your veterinarian to determine your pet's ideal weight and the appropriate steps to take together to get there, without judgement. It's clear from the data that many pets and their owners are struggling with this issue and Banfield is here to help."
Banfield now offers virtual and in-office nutrition advice sessions with veterinary technicians to make it easier than ever to partner with pet owners on pet nutritional needs, diet ingredients, and a healthier weight.
Maintaining a healthy weight in pets is about more than just keeping a slender waistline – it's about helping them live a healthy, more comfortable life.
Compared with pets of ideal weight, dogs and cats diagnosed as overweight or obese are more likely to suffer from other serious conditions. When looking at diagnoses of these pets in 2020:
Overweight dogs were nearly 4 times and overweight cats nearly 7 times more likely to be diagnosed with dermatologic issues such as skin infections, which could be a result of overweight pets having more difficulty keeping themselves clean because of extra pounds.
Overweight dogs were nearly 4 times and overweight cats 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with conditions such as diabetes or hypothyroidism.
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. You can read more here.
Overweight dogs were 2 times and overweight cats nearly 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic bronchitis.
Overweight cats were 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with urinary conditions such as urinary stones.
There's no definitive answer to why the number of overweight pets continues to rise, and there are many factors that can impact how much a pet weighs. To better understand key barriers to successfully managing their pet's weight at home, Banfield surveyed 1,000 owners across the U.S. While 88% of those surveyed agreed there are far more overweight pets today than ten years ago, 1 in 10 disagreed with this statement – highlighting a need for additional awareness among pet owners.
Of those with overweight or obese pets, 93% said they have faced hurdles in maintaining a healthy weight for their cat or dog, with the top reasons including:
Giving in when their pet begs for food or treats (46%)
Not knowing the best strategies for pet weight loss (30%)
Trouble exercising their pet due to their own health or mobility issues (29%) and not having enough time to exercise their pet (26%)
Not paying enough attention to their pet's diet (23%)
Despite the majority of owners (95%) saying they worry about the associated health risks of extra pounds on their pets, 41% said they have delayed a visit to the veterinarian in order to avoid talking about their pet's weight. Luckily, even small adjustments can have long-term benefits, and veterinary teams can offer support to help these changes feel less daunting and more manageable.
Below are a few tips from Banfield veterinarians that owners can try incorporating into their daily routines.
First and foremost, it's important to regularly check in with your veterinarian, who can monitor progress and adjust the weight loss plan along the way. Just as with people, pet weight management is unique to each pet.
Instead of resolving to run with your dog three miles a day, start with walking a few extra blocks. You can also utilize dog walking services in your area if you don't have the time or are unable to get outside that day.
Cut down on "people food," which can quickly add up to extra pounds on pets, and limit treats to no more than 10 percent of the pet's daily calories. Unsure what you should be feeding your pet? No one formula or amount is ideal for all pets, so it's important to consult with your veterinarian or veterinary technician who can advise on the best diet to meet your pet's needs.
If you're looking for indoor options, there are several different activities that you can do with your pet to engage them both physically and mentally, such as playing a game of hide and seek with their favorite toy or teaching them a new trick.
Interactive feeders and games that make dogs or cats work a little for their food can also help increase their activity.
"As part of the Mars Veterinary Health family of brands, we feel a responsibility to leverage our size and scale to share pet health data and insights in order to help advance veterinary care and support the growing human-animal bond," said Brian Garish, president of Banfield. "By positively impacting pets and helping them live healthy lives, we have a unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people and society at large."
"At Mars Petcare, we are harnessing the power of data across our veterinary health, genetics, nutrition, activity tracking and diagnostics businesses to power research that informs everything we do, including delivering better, more tailored care for our pets," said Darren Logan, head of research at Waltham Petcare Science Institute. "Our data-driven science is helping researchers better understand this complex disease. It's also enabling veterinarians and owners to team up, have the conversation about weight gain, and work together to keep pets at a healthy weight and help reverse this worrying trend of pet obesity."
"At Royal Canin, our purpose is to inspire pet owners to adopt healthy habits from the start and we arm partners and pet owners with the knowledge and nutrition they need to solve weight problems before and after they occur," said Dr. Tanya Schoeman, scientific support specialist at Royal Canin. "We commend pet professionals for their dedication to helping cats and dogs live their healthiest lives and together we can all work towards creating a better world for pets."
About Banfield Pet Hospital® Banfield Pet Hospital was founded in Portland, Ore. in 1955 and today is a pioneer in preventive veterinary care with more than 1,000 general veterinary hospitals in 42 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and Mexico. More than 3,600 Banfield veterinarians are committed to providing high-quality veterinary care to over three million pets annually. Banfield collects data from each of these visits in the U.S.'s largest electronic veterinary health records system. Our goal is to be here for pets, people, and society. As part of the Mars Veterinary Health family of practices, Banfield is committed to its purpose—A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS®—because pets make a better world for us. Press seeking additional information are invited to call the Media Hotline: (888) 355-0595.