Obesity in pets

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Playing catch at the dog park
Obese pets are common in the countries where human obesity affects a large proportion of the population. "Around 40 percent of dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese, and it is their most common nutritional disease."[1] Obese dogs and cats have a higher incidence of arthritis and heart disease. In fact, fatness to the point of health impairment is enough of a concern that "the Food and Drug Administration yesterday cleared Pfizer Inc. to market a drug called Slentrol for use in the estimated five per cent of U.S. dogs that are obese" in January 2007.[2] Obese pets are not restricted to the USA by any means. "A study by the RSPCA estimates 41 per cent of dogs and more than a third of cats are overweight or obese (in Australia). That's more than 1.5 million of Australia's four million dogs, and about 800,000 of the 2.5 million cats".[3]

When it comes to dangerously obese dogs, more than one pet owner has been prosecuted under the law for cruelty to animals. Two British brothers were cited in 2006 for cruelty and neglect of their chocolate labrador, "who was allegedly made so obese by his owners that he 'looked like a seal' and could barely waddle a few steps".[4] Cats have also been found to suffer from morbid obesity.

The reasons for obesity of cats and dogs in wealthier countries is not simply a matter of overfeeding. Lifestyle and hormonal influences also play roles. Pets are now, for their own safety, not allowed to free roam as they did in the past. Also, surgical sterilization of animals does increase the chances of the pet becoming overweight. Neutering of animals is important, not simply to cut down on the tragedy of huge numbers of unwanted cats and dogs, but also because the health of an individual pet is compromised by remaining "entire" but not being in a position to mate and reproduce. Females have higher rates of cancers and other abnormalities of the reproductive tract, and males are more likely to wander widely and suffer trauma from combat with other males, and from accidents.

In some municipalities the answer for dogs has come in the form of dog parks, both public runs and private facilities, in which dogs and people socialize.


  1. Spokesman Review January 2, 2007 Idaho Edition, section Z, p.14
  2. Ottawa Citizen January 6, 2007 Final Edition, P.D2
  3. Townsville Bulletin (Australia) August 10, 2006; "The Good Life", p.24
  4. Daily Mail (London) November 30, 2006