National survey set to gather pet obesity data

Overweight and obese pets will be the focus of the sixth annual National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Survey scheduled for Oct. 10, 2012.

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) conducts the survey to determine how many obese or overweight animals there are in the United States. One day each year, participating veterinarians and pet owners record and report information about pets’ weight, body condition scores (BCS), feeding habits, and other relevant data.

“This survey is for us to better assess the number of obese and overweight pets in America that are coming to pet clinics. This is the best real-world data we have,” said Dr. Ernie Ward, DVM, who is the founder of APOP.

Using statistics to promote preventive care
According to Ward, the numbers obtained from previous surveys indicate that the obesity epidemic requires wider preventive care efforts. For example, results from the 2011 survey revealed that:

  • 53 percent of adult dogs and 55 percent of cats were classified as obese, which the study concluded projects to 88.4 million obese pets in the United States.
  • 22 percent of dog owners and 15 percent of cat owners classified their overweight or obese pets as “normal.”
  • 49 percent of cat owners surveyed said their veterinarian had discussed obesity and excess weight with them, compared to 72 percent of dog owners.

Ward said the data obtained from the survey can also be useful in decision-making for several demographics, including veterinarians, pet owners, and pet food manufacturers. Knowing how many overweight pets are in the country will underscore the need for:

  • Educating pet owners about the consequences and prevention of obesity.
  • Making smarter pet food choices.
  • Updating knowledge about the amount and frequency of feeding.

By gaining real-world statistics about the pet obesity epidemic, Ward said he hopes it will lead to more effective teamwork between pet owners and veterinarians to keep pets at healthy weights.

“This isn’t about saving money on vet bills, this is about prolonging the lives of pets,” Ward said. “This is at the core of the oath we took when becoming veterinarians, because if we can prevent diseases such as arthritis and diabetes, we are fulfilling our oath as veterinarians.”

How to participate in the survey
Veterinarians and pet owners who wish to participate in the survey need to sign up online at APOPs website by October 3. On October 12, they will need to record specific data such as weight assessments and body condition scores for each patient, which Ward estimates should only add one or two minutes to the examination of each patient.

After all information has been recorded, veterinarians will have to submit that information to APOP electronically, by fax, or in postage-paid envelopes provided by the association. Ward said results of the study will be released around of the first of February, when holiday weight gain is the subject of many conversations.

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