Time for a walk: New report warns of rising pet obesity

A new report warns of a "skyrocketing" prevalence of osteoarthritis (OA) in pets over the past decade, largely linked to rising obesity rates for domesticated cats and dogs.

According to Banefield Pet Hospital, there has been a 66 percent increase in dogs and a 150 percent increase of the condition in cats. Between 41 and 52 percent of animals with OA are also overweight or obese.

OA is a degenerative joint condition that typically targets older pets, but it can develop in animals of any age.

GETTY IMAGES - fat dog

Getty Images

The findings are in line with a 2019 report by Nationwide Mutual Insurance company, which found that nearly 20 percent of its members' pet insurance claims in 2017 were due to obesity-related illnesses, resulting in $69 million (USD) in veterinary expenses.


Food portion control and year-round exercise are the best ways to keep cats and dogs in shape, experts say.

Dr. Ernie Ward, author of Chow Hounds: Why Our Dogs Are Getting Fatter – A Vet’s Plan to Save Their Lives, told The Weather Network in 2017 that as little as 30 extra calories per day can translate into a weight gain of three pounds over the course of a year.

Content continues below
GETTY IMAGES - fat cat

Getty Images

If you have an indoor cat, or when it's too cold or rainy to take your pet outside for a walk, Becker recommends increasing exercise by hiding food or playing games.

“If you have stairs, consider rewarding your cat for following with tiny pieces of treat or kibble to create a modified stair master," she says.


Getty Images

"Or, play games of tossing the kibble or toy up and down the stairs for a fun game of search that also builds muscles and burns calories.”

If you live in a climate that is prone to intense storms, or are uncomfortable walking on icy roads in the winter, consider hiring a dog walking service or enrolling your pet in a daycare that offers lots of exercise.

Content continues below

Getty Images

Don't attempt to take your pet out in unsafe conditions: A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests the number of people injuring themselves while walking their dogs is skyrocketing, with bone fractures relating to dog walking more than doubling over a thirteen-year period from 1,700 people aged 65 or older in 2004 to 4,400 people in 2017.

Source: Banefield Pet Hospital