New Study Finds That Concerns About Shorter Lifespans for Pets Can Drive Owner Action on Obesity

March 21, 2024

Owners of overweight cats and dogs are most likely to help them lose weight when veterinarians caution about the potential impact of obesity on animals’ life expectancy, according to two new studies published today in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA). 

With pet obesity an ongoing concern in the United States and Canada, linked to numerous adverse health outcomes including reduced lifespans, susceptibility to arthritis, and diminished mobility and quality of life, researchers from the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) at the University of Guelph conducted separate dog and cat focused surveys last year, each involving more than 1,000 participants, to explore information preferred by clients when considering whether to follow a veterinarian’s weight-loss recommendation for their pet. Survey participants were asked to rank the relative importance of various health-related issues that could result from obesity.

Among cat owners, impact on life expectancy was the most important factor that would encourage participants to pursue weight management for an obese feline (32.6 percent), followed by change to cost of food (20.4 percent), future quality of 21 life (20.38 percent), future mobility (14.4 percent), and risk of developing diabetes (12.2 percent).

For dog owners surveyed, the most important weight-related concern also was life expectancy (28.6 percent), followed by developing arthritis (19.2 percent), future quality of life (18.9 percent), change to cost of food (18.9 percent) and future mobility (14.3 percent).

“Pet obesity advocates have suggested that veterinarians may be reluctant to discuss obesity with clients for fear of causing offense or otherwise harming the veterinary-client relationship, and acknowledge that obesity is a challenging and sensitive topic to broach,” according to the article on feline obesity.

“Given the implications for pet health and well-being, client communication regarding obesity is a professional responsibility for veterinary professionals,” the canine obesity study said.

This story was originally shared by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

About the AVMA

Serving more than 105,000 member veterinarians, the AVMA is the nation's leading representative of the veterinary profession, dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of animals, humans and the environment. Founded in 1863 and with members in every U.S. state and territory and more than 60 countries, the AVMA is one of the largest veterinary medical organizations in the world. Informed by our members' unique scientific training and clinical knowledge, the AVMA supports the crucial work of veterinarians and advocates for policies that advance the practice of veterinary medicine and improve animal and human health.

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