We’ve been discussing the prevalence of pet obesity for years. But, with the rise of COVID-19 and numerous lockdowns, pet obesity has increased.
But by how much? We decided to find out by relaunching our 2019 survey with Burgess Pet Care. By comparing our 2019 pre-covid results with the new post-covid results we can get an understanding of the effect COVID-19 has had on pet obesity. But first, a bit of background:
What is Pet Obesity?
Pet obesity is considered the top health concern for UK pets, according to a survey of veterinary professionals by the BVA. In fact, in 2020, a number of vets expressed concerns over lockdown and its effect on the pet obesity epidemic.
The most likely factors for this increase are overfeeding, excessive treats, feeding scraps and not enough exercise.
A number of pet-focused brands, including Marsden and Burgess, have shared resources that can be used to help keep your pet happy and healthy.
The Great British Pet Weight Survey 2021 was conducted online during July 2021. The total sample size was 1,045 pet owners from across the UK, who answered 16 questions about pet health and the effect of lockdown and COVID-19.
Pet obesity has definitely increased over the past year and a half. Our original survey discovered that 23% of pets were overweight, whereas our new survey found 32% of pet owners believed their pets to be overweight.
This is a startling figure and it means that 3 million more pets are now overweight compared to 2019 (assuming total number of pets in the UK is 64million).
But is this accurate?
Vets believe that the actual number of pets that are overweight is much higher; in fact almost half of pets are believed to be overweight or obese (51% dogs, 44% cats, 29% small mammals).
So, how well do owners know their pet’s weight?
Well, according to our survey, only 11% of pets are weighed monthly at the vets. Given that veterinary professionals recommend weighing your pet every two or three months for an accurate weight, this will likely skew an owner’s knowledge of their pet’s weight.
This is further solidified by the fact 68% of pet owners have never asked their vet for weight management advice.
Overfeeding or poor portion control is listed as one of the main factors affecting pet obesity.
32% of pet owners still guess how much to feed their pets, instead of following the recommended dietary guidelines. This has not changed since the 2019 survey, suggesting pet owners aren’t heeding professional advice surrounding pet obesity.
58% of respondents measure their pet’s food. However, only 30% use a scale. The other 70% use a cup, which is not the most accurate measuring tool.
Too many treats
Killing your pets with kindness is another major cause of pet obesity. Many pet owners spoil their pets by giving them too many treats.
Shockingly, ¼ of pet owners don’t take treats into account when feeding their pets and a further 25% only do sometimes. This is in line with the 2019 survey.
However, almost ¼ of respondents also stated that they have given their pets more treats during lockdown than before.
Feeding your pets scraps or leftovers from your own dinner is another potential factor. Thankfully this statistic decreased from 10% in 2019 to 8% in 2021, implying that pets are snacking less on human food.
Pet obesity is associated with a number of health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis and breathing problems.
Yet despite over 88% of respondents in both surveys stating they would actively work with their vet to help their pet slim down to protect them from certain illnesses, these results haven’t changed.
Dr Suzanne Moyes, Operations & Technical Director and in-house Vet at Burgess Pet Care, said:
"The results of this survey always give us a fascinating insight because, although we know how passionate owners are about looking after their pets, it can be all too easy to let their weight creep up over time. The body conditioning score system is a great tool for owners to help them determine how healthy their pets are, but it is by no means a substitute for regular vet check-ups, which are vital to monitoring weight and overall health.
"It is also really important that owners always weigh out their pets' food and take account of their treats when accounting for their daily food allowance, to ensure accurate portion control. The fact that this survey revealed that 31% of owners 'guess' the amount of food they provide shows that we have some work to do to educate owners about this issue. We strongly encourage owners to always refer to the back of the pack to check the recommended quantities and, if any owners have any questions, our friendly customer care team is always available to help them."
What do you think of the survey results? Do they reflect your thoughts and knowledge of pet obesity?