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Medicine Science

Research Finds 1 In 3 American Cats and Dogs Are Overweight (arstechnica.com) 177

After surveying 2.5 million dogs and 500,000 cats in the U.S. last year, a group of researchers found that about one in three were overweight or obese. "Looking over data from the last decade, the researchers say the new figures reveal a 169-percent increase in hefty felines and a 158-percent increase in chunky canines," reports Ars Technica. From the report: All the data is from researchers at Banfield, which runs a chain of veterinary hospitals across 42 states. The researchers surveyed animals that checked into one of Banfield's 975 locations, putting them through a five-point physical and visual exam. Animals were considered overweight if their ribs were not clearly visible or easily felt and if their waists were also hard to see. Pets were dubbed obese if their ribs couldn't be felt at all and they had no visible waist. As in humans, being overweight makes pets more prone to chronic health conditions. Also similar to humans, doctors blame pets' weight problems on overfeeding and lack of exercise. Other contributing factors include genetics and health issues such as arthritis, which can make play painful. Last, some pet owners may not be able to spot weight issues in their pets -- particularly because so many more dogs and cats are now overweight, making chubby pets the new norm. Dog breeds with the highest prevalence of obesity are Labrador Retrievers, Cairn Terriers, and Cocker Spaniels, the researchers report. For cats, the fattest breeds are Manx and Maine Coons.
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Research Finds 1 In 3 American Cats and Dogs Are Overweight

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  • Really? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Circlotron ( 764156 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @03:03AM (#54710475)
    Stuff that matters alright!
    • Well, was there WiFi? That makes it a tech story, right? ;>)

      Seriously--it could matter to people in the pet-related industries. And to people who have pets too, I guess.

      One cause is that dry food is convenient to feed, but it is usually vegetable-based (corn or rice) which isn't really good for dogs, and is twice as not-good for cats. Canned food is generally much better for them.

      Semi-related: one time I was told that when investigating senility in seniors (people, that is) some doctors ask to see
    • by hawkfish ( 8978 )

      Stuff that matters alright!

      Not to mention the obvious survivor bias. Pets taken in to the vet are much more likely to be ill in some manner. Especially since most people are even less likely to go to the vet than a human doctor (no insurance).

    • Of course it doesn't matter. We all know that all pets are purely gluttonous pigs that will eat until it kills them (actually, some pets WILL do this). No our pets should be shamed for not watching their weight. I mean, who cares if what is sold as cat food is essentially the same fillers that they put in the rest of our food. Who cares if there is a correlation between what is sold as food, whether for pets or for ourselves, and obesity? No. It is your failing. You are not working hard enough to ensure tha

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 29, 2017 @03:07AM (#54710493)

    In families with at least one obese person, usually EVERYONE in the family is obese - even small children, who obviously aren't making their own dietary decisions. It doesn't surprise me that the pets are obese, too.

    • by guises ( 2423402 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @04:56AM (#54710761)
      My father's perspective has become skewed enough that he doesn't understand what a healthy weight looks like. It's not surprising to me that his dogs are all fat, though he denies it and decries other people for under-feeding their dogs because, "You can see their ribs."
      • by c ( 8461 ) <beauregardcp@gmail.com> on Thursday June 29, 2017 @09:06AM (#54711651)

        A big part of it is that people are incredibly ignorant of how much exercise a healthy dog actually needs. They think that if they walk until the human is tired then the dog got a good workout. Which is a bit like an olympic athlete training for an event by going for a walk with his grandmother.

        A large part of the problem, though, is pet food feeding guidelines. If you feed a typical pet what the bag says, 90% of the time you'll get an obese pet. Heck, if you feed most active dogs what the bag says, you'll get a fat dog.

        • A big part of it is that people are incredibly ignorant of how much exercise a healthy dog actually needs. They think that if they walk until the human is tired then the dog got a good workout. Which is a bit like an olympic athlete training for an event by going for a walk with his grandmother.

          A large part of the problem, though, is pet food feeding guidelines. If you feed a typical pet what the bag says, 90% of the time you'll get an obese pet. Heck, if you feed most active dogs what the bag says, you'll get a fat dog.

          Unfortunately, my dog is old enough that I can now out walk her most summer days. During the winter, I can't keep up with the poor beast. She just doesn't tolerate heat like she used to. But you're right, most dogs are overfed. I'm fortunate enough that my dog only eats what she thinks is necessary. We walk about 5 miles a day and I leave unlimited food out for her 24/7. Most people I know would have an extremely overweight dog by now, but she eats very carefully.

        • It's the quality of the food itself that is the issue. A lot of dog food is now filled with cheap grains that make the dog overweight and diabetic. I have a corgi (which are known for overeating) and her food bowl is always full. Because I buy her quality food she only picks at it and maintains a healthy weight.

          Interestingly enough this same issue is what is driving the human obesity epidemic.
          • by c ( 8461 )

            I have a corgi (which are known for overeating) and her food bowl is always full. Because I buy her quality food she only picks at it and maintains a healthy weight.

            You can sometimes get away with free feeding if you have a single dog (but don't try it with a Beagle). In fact, single dogs are often underweight because they're under no pressure to eat everything at a time.

            It usually doesn't work in multi-dog households.

            The main argument against free feeding is that it makes it a lot harder to catch health pr

            • Yes you are right about that- she was under a lot more pressure when we had another dog which passed away last year. I WFH and she practically spends every minute with me so it's easy to keep track of her habits :-) Definitely saw a real improvement in both dogs though when I switched foods.
            • I have two dogs and free feed with no issues. One of them is defensive of food around new dogs, too. It just took a little time to let them get acclimated to each other and now they eat out of each other's bowls without a second thought.

              I may just be lucky that my dogs have compatible personalities, though. I could see it becoming an issue if one dog is strongly food aggressive and the other is very passive. Both of mine will tell the other off when they need to.

          • by gosand ( 234100 )

            Look how much grain is in the dog food.
            Look how much grain is in your diet. (yes, corn is a grain)

            This story does not surprise me in the least.

            We've only been consuming grains for roughly 10,000 years, but we've been evolving for 2.5 million years.
            Grains have been substitutes for food in times of famine, but now they take up the majority of our diet. Obesity, diabetes, and heart disease will continue until this stops.

        • by Ranbot ( 2648297 )

          A large part of the problem, though, is pet food feeding guidelines. If you feed a typical pet what the bag says, 90% of the time you'll get an obese pet. Heck, if you feed most active dogs what the bag says, you'll get a fat dog.

          Yes. The feeding guidelines on dog food bags are typically double what an average dog actually needs, even for active dogs. The dog food companies have a financial incentive to try to make the serving size larger and there are no organizations watching them to verify their recommendations are legit (like the FDA for human food). And then some owners give lots of treats and table scraps to dogs but rarely track the amount, so it's no surprise many dogs get obese.

          • by c ( 8461 )

            The feeding guidelines on dog food bags are typically double what an average dog actually needs, even for active dogs.

            The only time I've come even close to feeding manufacturer recommended amounts was with 2-3 year old dogs doing weekly flyball tournaments, agility trials, and practices, plus training and hard daily conditioning.

        • A large part of the problem, though, is pet food feeding guidelines. If you feed a typical pet what the bag says, 90% of the time you'll get an obese pet. Heck, if you feed most active dogs what the bag says, you'll get a fat dog.

          You think people measure out food? I bet 1 in 3 pet owner's don't. Or if they do, they feed table scraps as well.

          If you own a cat or dog, go to the dollar store and get a cheap set of dry measuring cups. Then measure out the food! If your pet gets too fat or skinny, adjust the quantity.

          • by c ( 8461 )

            If you own a cat or dog, go to the dollar store and get a cheap set of dry measuring cups. Then measure out the food!

            You missed a step.

            First, figure out the calorie requirements of your pet (there's calculators available on the web), then use the kcal/cup values listed on the bag to determine how much you should be measuring out, then measure out the amounts.

            Or maybe that's just me...

            • If you own a cat or dog, go to the dollar store and get a cheap set of dry measuring cups. Then measure out the food!

              You missed a step.

              First, figure out the calorie requirements of your pet (there's calculators available on the web), then use the kcal/cup values listed on the bag to determine how much you should be measuring out, then measure out the amounts.

              Or maybe that's just me...

              That's a good start. There's usually a recommendation on the bag. Although individual pets may vary. You will likely need to adjust the quantity.

    • by havana9 ( 101033 )
      You have to also consider the genetics factor, that has to be added to behavioural one.
      When I was living in the country side I've always had a a couple of cat as pet and for mousing. I gave them some food but in a spotty fashion to make the interested to catch the vermin, Naturally they were vaccinated and if they were ill I called the vet. They were big and fat, even if I was giving them a small quantity of food, but I think that being kept sane and with a lot of live food to choose make them to gain wei
      • by sound+vision ( 884283 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @08:17AM (#54711359) Journal
        That's an almost fourfold increase, it sounds more like you're minimizing.
        • by ranton ( 36917 )

          That's an almost fourfold increase, it sounds more like you're minimizing.

          He was replying to a post that said "In families with at least one obese person, usually EVERYONE in the family is obese". Clearly if only half of children of overweight parents become overweight, then the original post was absolutely exaggerating. Since under half of families with overweight parents have overweight children his claim that the OP was exaggerating was spot on.

    • In families with at least one obese person, usually EVERYONE in the family is obese - even small children, who obviously aren't making their own dietary decisions. It doesn't surprise me that the pets are obese, too.

      Interestingly enough, the article I read on the subject said that the State of Colorado has the fittest humans in the US and also the most obese cats and dogs. So that is actually contrary to your statement. In fact, in my experience walking my dog and meeting other dog owners, it usually is the pet who is fat and the owner skinny when running into people who regularly walk their dog. I think the problem is likely due to overfeeding and, in the case of a woman I met on Monday, giving too many treats to t

    • Read the article. Pet weight did not track. In areas with very high people obesity, pet obesity was low, and vice versa. Interesting. Although some of that I think the heavy people areas are places where people have the animals work, IE hunt. Hunting dogs are very lean machines.

    • Actually, no. The article notes that households where the members are of healthy weight are more likely to have overweight pets.

      • Dogs get fat from table scraps. Fatties go 'timeless blur' and only re-awake when the food is gone, none for the dog.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If you don't let them out to roam, they won't get enough exercise. No other country treats cats as indoor-only pets

    • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

      When I got mine, the shelter told me that the life expectancy of an outdoor cat is half that of an indoor cat. So, did I want to have a companion for 8 years or 16? Seemed like an easy choice. Also, I was living in Chicago at the time, so there wasn't really a good/useful place to let them out anyway.

      I'm in semi-rural Colorado now, and with all the predators out here, it still seems like a bad idea. There are missing cat posters up in my neighborhood monthly.

  • Why is this here? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Mal-2 ( 675116 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @03:15AM (#54710521) Homepage Journal

    Just because it's on Ars Technica, that doesn't mean it's "News For Nerds, Stuff That Matters".

    Also, fat pets have more health problems, but it's not exactly a major crisis. A cat dying at the age of 10 instead of 15 is unfortunate for one cat and one family, but it has exceptionally little effect on the world at large or even on the family's next door neighbors.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Oh how naive. Can you imagine what would happen if Maru died? YouTube [youtube.com] would basically implode, taking most of the internet with it. Then what would you do? Yes, that's what I thought.
      • What would happen is that the cat gets replace by another cat that looks identical and it continues.

      • by PPH ( 736903 )

        Lots of other fat cats [viralviralvideos.com] would take it's place.

    • It's probably in the lower half of nutrition/health/biology articles here when ranked by interestingness, but not totally useless. The interesting thing for me to consider with this data is that the normalization of obesity is probably crossing over from the human realm into our pets as well. The pets dying early won't have an appreciable economic effect, but it can be indicative of our attitudes toward human weight, which absolutely have an effect.
  • How much do they charge compared to the market? I knew a vet in the poor town in a rich county. He helped many very poor pet owners and knew every trick to keep bills down and I bet their animals were less obese.

  • by twein ( 799152 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @03:17AM (#54710533)
    • by ls671 ( 1122017 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @03:36AM (#54710577) Homepage

      Damn, you just beat me to it ;-(

      I was about to post the same link:

      Fast Facts

      Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2009–2010 2, 3

              More than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese.
              More than 1 in 3 adults are considered to be obese.
              More than 1 in 20 adults are considered to have extreme obesity.
              About one-third of children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 are considered to be overweight or obese.
              More than 1 in 6 children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 are considered to be obese.

    • by ls671 ( 1122017 )

      On the other hand, we could say that Americans handle their cats and dogs as well as their children ;-)

      About one-third of children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 are considered to be overweight or obese.

  • by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Thursday June 29, 2017 @04:01AM (#54710645)

    Korean Air is offering deep discounts to Americans who want to bring their overweight pets along on vacation, along with free copies of "100 Ways to Wok Your Dog".

  • Research finds... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @05:01AM (#54710771) Homepage

    ...that most pet owners have no idea how to care for their animals. They buy a pet, like they buy a sofa or chair: it's supposed to be there when they want it, and otherwise it is neglected. My cat is better trained than most dogs I meet. She sits and lies down on command, she comes when called. She does silly tricks.

    Dogs in particular require a lot of interaction, a lot of training and a lot of care. They are pack animals, which means that - if they are going to get their share of the kill - they have to eat as much as they can, as fast as they can. People who bought a dog, thinking it was a kind of furry sofa, have no clue. So of course their dogs are overweight. "But he's always hungry" - no shit, Sherlock, that's how dogs are.

    • ...that most pet owners have no idea how to care for their animals.

      Not at all. Researches have identified that pet owners put as much effort in the care of their pets as the care of their own obese lardarsses.

      Most pet owners are quite responsible and understand what the requirements of their animals are. Unfortunately feeding their dogs their left over super sized pizza which they couldn't finish after drinking 1L of sugary drinks doesn't benefit the dog.

    • ...that most pet owners have no idea how to care for their animals.

      Wow. I should report my son to Animal Welfare because his older cat who can't get much exercise is obscenely obese. Yeah, he really should not be adopting older pets from the Animal Shelter. Those animals have problems and should just be put to sleep so that the world can be a more perfect place.

      I mean, I did suggest not buying normal cat food and she is slowly losing some weight, but why should we look at what is offered up as pet food when we can shame the owners for not caring enough or being good enoug

  • Cat food lobby (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kergan ( 780543 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @05:53AM (#54710891)

    The industrial cat food you find in stores is choke full of nutrients that are pointless for obligate carnivores. It's akin to feeding kids with cookies and candy bars on grounds that there's a bit of flour and nuts in them.

    Not to mention the severe lack of water in the case of dry food. Cats get the bulk of their daily water intake through their food, and only partially compensate the lack of intake by drinking more if you give them dry food.

    • by swb ( 14022 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @07:28AM (#54711173)

      Dogs may be able to digest carbohydrates but if you stop and think about it, where would dogs get carbohydrates in the wild? Trace amounts from eating grass, but otherwise they would be eating meat or scavenging carrion. They can only tolerate some carbohydrates because of their long association with humans.

      Most dog food is chock full of carbohydrates and it fattens dogs just like fattens people and cattle in the feedlot.

      • Most dog food is chock full of carbohydrates and it fattens dogs just like fattens people and cattle in the feedlot.

        There's plenty in cat food, too. Our cat spends most of her time outside hunting things so she supplements and gets lots of exercise, but the only cat food she will eat is the cheapest possible crunchies. I worry about the health impact, but she's about the most active cat I know, so clearly it's not causing her problems. Probably that's why it isn't.

      • So it's a good thing to feed the dog table scraps. Also good for the environment, less resources going into making and transporting dog food.
      • by c ( 8461 ) <beauregardcp@gmail.com> on Thursday June 29, 2017 @08:52AM (#54711585)

        where would dogs get carbohydrates in the wild?

        Judging from the coyote scat I see around my place and what my dogs eat outside, fruit is a pretty popular source of nutrients and carbs.

        • where would dogs get carbohydrates in the wild?

          Judging from the coyote scat I see around my place and what my dogs eat outside, fruit is a pretty popular source of nutrients and carbs.

          Bingo! Dogs love sweat tasting foods. My dog will even eat some vegetables.

        • Right. But sweet things like berries are only available a few weeks out of the year, so it makes sense that their body would immediately turn them into fat.
          • by swb ( 14022 )

            Right, their access in nature to fruits is extremely limited by seasonality, the inherent limitations of wild fruit-producing plants (most forests are not populated with apple trees), and competition from animals for whom fruit is a primary food and which have innate abilities to access it (climbing or flying).

            A dog can only eat fruit in season and which it can reach and hasn't been already taken by fruit-eating competitors.

            In nature, a dog's access to high carbohydrate foods is extremely limited.

            I would su

            • I guess it depends what you mean by evolved. I used to feed my dogs cheap food which had corn and other things of that nature and they were always ravenous and gained weight. After switching to a healthier food they became easily satiated and returned to normal weight. Diamond Naturals... it's not even that expensive.
            • by c ( 8461 )

              Right, their access in nature to fruits is extremely limited by seasonality

              True. Although it's not that short of a season, and you can add things like nuts and roots to the list which have a high shelf life... I spent a good chunk of the spring filling in holes in the lawn where my dogs were digging up buried walnuts.

              Corn is popular with some dogs, too.

              I would suspect that domestic dogs may have even evolved improved carbohydrate metabolism from their long association with people

              The coyotes seem to switch t

              • Ol' Roy...

                If you never want to eat Taco Bell again, open a can of Ol' Roy beef dog food and get a good smell. Then go immediately to Taco Bell and go in. When you go in the door, you will smell Ol' Roy beef dog food combined with Taco Bell seasoning. You will never be able to eat Taco Bell again. I can't even feed my dog Ol' Roy wet dog food anymore.

              • by swb ( 14022 )

                Dogs do thrive on a carnivorous diet, and if you want to see lean muscle then a raw meat diet is definitely going to get your dog there easier and with less side-effects (i.e. allergies) than Ol' Roy, but I tend to worry way more about how many calories they eat than whether they're eating an optimal diet.

                I suspect that dogs have a pretty good metabolic signaling system that prevents them from gaining weight even on an all meat diet. Unless they have been stressed or mistreated somehow and have developed a starvation mindset, I think that even if given an unlimited supply of all meat they would gorge initially but then level out as their metabolic system told them they had enough to eat.

      • Dogs may be able to digest carbohydrates but if you stop and think about it, where would dogs get carbohydrates in the wild? Trace amounts from eating grass, but otherwise they would be eating meat or scavenging carrion. They can only tolerate some carbohydrates because of their long association with humans.

        Most dog food is chock full of carbohydrates and it fattens dogs just like fattens people and cattle in the feedlot.

        Dogs are scavengers and will eat almost anything. My dog will happily eat fruit and even some vegetables off the ground. They need a large amount of protein in their diet, but they do eat more than just grass as you suggest. They do not, however, eat grains.

      • It's a good theory. Dogs = wolves in cuddly disguise. Wolves = meat eaters. Therefore dogs would do better eating only meat.

        Unfortunately real life empirical data disproves this theory. Dogs eating nothing but supermarket dry dog food live far longer than any wolves.

        If you want a more apples-to-apples comparison, take dogs than are given nothing but raw meat vs. dogs eating packaged dry dog food. Once again, meat eating dogs did not live any longer than dogfood eating dogs.

      • Really? WTF dude. You are distracting the narrative of Americans being so incredibly gluttonous that even their pets are obese.

        Every single person must be kept in the prison of belief that they are inadequate and worthless or at least partially at fault for just about everything that is wrong with the world. It should be a constant barrage of insults so that there is no relief other than death.

        Being logical and taking the time to actually think about things detracts from the narrative which permits control

    • by eth1 ( 94901 )

      I've always said that feeding your cat any food you're likely to find in a normal supermarket/wal-mart/etc. is no different than taking your kids to McDonald's three meals a day (and maybe worse).

      If you start feeding your cat good cat food, you'll notice they eat quite a bit less of it, which partially compensates for the increased cost. Leaves more room for water in the case of dry food, too, but you still need to give them some wet/oily food every day.

  • Glad to hear it's not as high a percentage as humans!

  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Thursday June 29, 2017 @07:41AM (#54711231)
    It's all those large sized carbonated beverages owners are giving them...
    • I haven't seen many people do that, but I suppose it's possible. More likely, the obesity has to do with large amounts of solid carbs, what your mom called "people-food". Also note that a lot of the dog food out there is closer nutritionally to "people-food" than what dogs would naturally eat.
      • Your dog wants beer. Delicious, preferably flat, beer.

        Not can beer, or over hopped IPA. Good, flat, 'German' (Czech?) style beer.

        I've had three dogs turn their nose up at Bud. The look at you like WTF is that? Never had Coors in the house, but you can bet all the 'alka seltzer' style beers would get the same result.

  • I guess pets and their owners do start to look alike...
  • by unique_parrot ( 1964434 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @08:16AM (#54711357)
    ...was overweight too. Until we got a tip to look out for sugar in the food.
    It wasn't easy to find a cat food without sugar and we were worried that he - the sugar junkie - wouldn't like it BUT he loves it!
    I think the meat must be better (didn't taste it).

    Now he is back to normal and way more active (immediately after the food change).
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It surprises people, but Cats cannot taste 'sweet' [scientificamerican.com]. There is really no reason for sugar to be put into cat food to benefit the cat.

      The manufactures add it as cheap filler. It's the same thing with people food. Government subsidies on corn in the United States means it is super cheap to replace something else with HCF "sugar" or corn meal to increase weight, improve appearance and improve smell to people.

      But your cat doesn't care. He or she is just as happy eating freshly killed mouse or crunchy live beet

      • That's very interesting to know and such a shame.
        I know somebody who's cat got diabetes (overwight, no "sport" and too much sugar).

        We don't want that to happen to our cat.
    • Do you have the brand name? My friend (who I'm cat-sitting for over the July 4 weekend, incidentally) wanted to know.

  • Biased data (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    They aren't seriously claiming they've discovered something using only their own data as a source, right?

    First of all, Banfield is only in urban areas where there is more disposable income. Second, people who go to Banfield/Petsmart are those who tend to spoil their pets more, and in turn also feed them more treats and larger meal helpings. Finally, they are only using their own in-house data, and in doing so are failing to control for their own internal bias.

  • I think this is because most owners have no idea what their pet should look like. I have friends who have commented 'oh, they are supposed to look that way' when their pup looked like an overstuffed sausage with legs. There is no way the vet looked at that animal and said 'Amazing specimen of health there!' I have found that as we have gotten healthier (running, trying to eat better), so have our animals. Initially I can understand a lack of knowledge leading to poor choices, but when the vet says you h
  • The natural food for cats and dogs is meat, when you replace it with mostly grains, they become fat just like their human owners.
  • obese animals

    So those Angry Birds and pig heads aren't heads -- they are the whole bodies.

  • Fat, large people, have fat large cars and fat, large cats and dogs.

    I bet they also have fat, large wives or husbands and fat large kids and a fat large liver on top.

  • There's a movement claiming that being overweight or obese isn't as harmful as it's made out to be. (I don't subscribe to this, but it exists.)

    Curious if they'd argue that it's just as healthy for a cat or dog to be obese?

  • We have 3 cats, and 1 is overweight. Study confirmed.

  • ... "I'm not fat. I'm big boned!"

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