Nation & World

Fat cats in Kansas reflect a growing U.S. epidemic of obese pets, experts warn

Banfield has seen a 158 percent increase in overweight dogs and 169 percent increase in overweight cats over the last 10 years.
Banfield has seen a 158 percent increase in overweight dogs and 169 percent increase in overweight cats over the last 10 years. AP file photo

A new report suggests that about a third of pet dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese, and you might be surprised to learn where they live.

Banfield Pet Hospital analyzed information about the 2.5 million dogs and 500,000 cats it treated last year at its 975 vet clinics across the United States and in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The growing number of overweight cats and dogs in the country is stunning. Banfield has seen a 158 percent increase in overweight dogs and 169 percent increase in overweight cats over the last 10 years.

Obesity is an epidemic, the study warns.

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This year’s study found that states with the biggest pets were not states with higher rates of obese humans.

Overweight pets, overweight pet owners? Not necessarily.

For instance, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, all known for having high rates of human obesity, were among states with low numbers of overweight pets, according to Banfield’s State of Pet Health Report.

Outdoorsy Colorado, on the other hand, ranked among the top 20 states with the most overweight pets.

Minnesota had the highest percentage of pudgy pets out of all the states. Forty-one percent of dogs and 46 percent of cats in Minnesota are overweight or obese, according to Banfield’s research.

The top 10 states of overweight dogs: Minnesota, Nebraska, Michigan, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Washington, Utah, Indiana and Oregon.

The top 10 states of overweight cats: Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Idaho, Delaware, Michigan, Nevada, Kansas, Utah and New Mexico.

In Kansas, the prevalence of overweight dogs is nearly 7 percent higher than the national average. The percentage of overweight cats is 15 percent higher than the national average.

In Missouri, only the percentage of overweight cats is higher than the national average, a slight 3 percent difference.

Pet owners across the country seem uncertain about what “overweight” means for pets, the study suggests, noting that chubby pets might be becoming the “new normal.”

Owners also seem confused about how much to feed their pets, the report notes, while also stating the obvious: A veterinarian can help you with that.

In the end, the pets pay the price for what their owners don’t know.

More than 20 diseases and chronic conditions, including diabetes and arthritis, have been linked to pets being overweight, Kirk Breuninger, a veterinary research associate for Banfield, told USA Today.

“We know a few things that are really linked with pets becoming overweight, one of which is pets not getting enough exercise, pets eating too much food, and pet owners who really consider pets a part of the family use treats as a form of communication with pets,” Breuninger said.

“While some may say, ‘My pet looks cute being pudgy or plump,’ ultimately carrying those extra pounds contributes to exasperating these diseases.”

Having a slimmer pet is lighter on the wallet, too.

Owners of overweight dogs spend 17 percent more on their pets’ health care than owners of healthy-weight dogs. Owners of fat cats spend 36 percent more than owners with healthier pets, the report found.

The report’s recommendations for keeping pets at a healthy weight align with the advice physicians give humans: Cut down on the treats and exercise more.

“Even small changes can have big long-term effects,” Breuninger told USA Today. “Even just going a few extra blocks can have a big difference and if you think about yourself, if you don’t exercise enough feel sluggish and not at your best and we have seen pets likely feel the same way too.”

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