2.7 million pet owners told by vets their pets are overweight in last 12 months

New research from Direct Line Pet Insurance* reveals pet obesity is on the rise across the UK with 2.7 million pet owners being told by vets their pets are overweight in the last year.

Of the 2.7 million pet owners, 1.7 million are dog owners and 1 million are cat owners. This is 12% of dog owners, a rise on the 8% who were told their dogs were overweight over the two years previously.

Research conducted amongst vets** in the last year reveals that the vast majority (83%) are seeing an increase in the proportion of overweight pets being brought into their practice for treatment.

Vets estimate that they are treating 49% more overweight pets than they were just a year ago. In fact, it is estimated that a vet will treat six animals showing signs of obesity during an average week.

Not only is the pet’s health at risk if it is overweight, owners themselves are at an increased risk of injury when lifting overweight animals.

In just the last year, dog owners have sustained several different types of injuries as a result of their pets, some of which are relatively minor, like bruising (wo million dog owners) and muscle strain (1.2 million owners) but others are much more serious.

Dog owners have reported suffering major injuries including broken bones and spinal injuries as a result of carrying their pet.

The increase in overweight pets mean vets are at a greater risk of injury when treating patients and over half of vets are regularly concerned about injuring themselves when treating heavier animals.

Nearly two thirds of vets have sustained an injury when treating an overweight animal have had to see the doctor and two fifths have needed to go to hospital.

Eva Sandstra-Bennett, Head of Pet Insurance at Direct Line, said: “It is alarming that pet obesity is increasing. Dogs and cats being overweight is a very serious issue as it can affect joints, cause diabetes, heart and breathing problems. While it may be horrible to hear from a vet that a pet is overweight, owners should pet attention to their warning, as addressing the problem quickly will reduce risk of future health problems such as diabetes.

“Measuring out food can help to avoid over feeding and while those puppy dog eyes may be hard to resist for scraps and treats, giving in may do more harm than dog.”

Vets believe that owners are often unaware about the health issues associated with the weight of their pets.

The most common weight-related misconceptions owners have around their pets are that overfeeding or giving treats is a way of showing love (54%), that vets are being overly cautious when it comes to pets’ weights (50%) and that you can feed your pet more as long as its high quality food (47%).

Vets say almost a third of owners believe that obesity isn’t a serious issue in animals, while 16% of owners are also thought to not believe that animals are able to become medically obese.


* Research conducted by Opinium among a UK nationally representative sample of 2,006 adults betwen 20th and 23rd August 2019

** Research conducted by Pure Profile among 101 vets between 29th August and 3rd September