Cases of overweight and obesity as well as arthritis in cats and dogs have risen in the past five years, according to data
gathered by Banfield Pet Hospitals.
The second annual State of Pet Health Report looked at information from visits by more than 2 million dogs and 430,000 cats
and revealed that the incidence of overweight in dogs is up 37 percent since 2007. The incidence in cats is worse, with the
prevalence of overweight cats increasing 90 percent since 2007.
Dr. Jeffrey Klausner
Jeffrey Klausner, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, Banfield's chief medical officer, says he wasn't surprised to see the incidence of arthritis
go up as well. Since 2007, the incidence of arthritis is up 38 percent in dogs, 67 percent in all cats, and 80 percent in
"The numbers speak for themselves," Klausner says. "There's a huge increase in obesity."
Last year's inaugural State of Pet Health Report focused on preventive care, Klausner says. This year, the focus was on diseases
that, if caught early, can keep pets healthier and avoid the need for expensive treatments.
"This report shows that when client visits to the veterinarian are falling, there's more evidence that you're running the
risk of our dogs and cats getting a lot sicker," he says. "People are not coming in for the [twice-a-year physical exams].
It's intuitive that our pets are not going to be as healthy."
This year's report also included data from a pet perception survey of more than 1,000 dog owners and 1,000 cat owners.
Gaps in pet owner awareness about their pets' weight and its impact on health were clear, Klausner says: 76 percent of dog
and owners and 69 percent of cat owners believe their pet is just the right weight. Roughly 70 percent of cat and dog owners
are not aware that weight gain and arthritis in pets are linked.
"We can show the client that there is a problem, but we can't assume that when a pet is overweight, that a client immediately
agrees with that," Klausner says.
"If veterinarians don't give [clients] a good reason to come, they won't come," he continues. "We need to tell them that the
most cost-effective thing is twice-a-year comprehensive exams. [They need to know] that it's not a hugely expensive process,
and if we can pick up on symptoms early, we can get a head start on these things."
Brendan Howard is editor of Advanstar's Veterinary Economics and Firstline magazines.