New survey weighs up potential reasons behind the pet obesity crisis

Golden Retriever eating out of a red bowl

LONDON, UK: 21 February 2018: Owners hold key to healthy weight by ignoring “begging” and monitoring food quantity.

A new international survey of pet owners has revealed that:

  • Over half of cat and dog owners always or often give their pet food if they beg for it (54 percent)
  • Almost a quarter (22 percent) of cat and dog owners sometimes overfeed their pet to keep them happy
  • Only 20 percent always measure how much food they are giving them
  • 87 percent always or often give their pet roughly what they think it needs at each serving

There is remarkably little understanding of how much food cats and dogs need or what they should or should not eat and most owners have no idea whether their pet is overweight or not.  Estimates suggest that as many at 59 percent of dogs and 52 percent of cats worldwide are overweight.  Yet in the survey, only a quarter of cat and dog owners (24 percent) describe their pet as overweight.  However, when asked whether their cat or dog exhibited any of the signs of being overweight, 64 percent indicated that their pet currently has at least one sign of being overweight (such as not being able to feel their pet’s ribs or having had to loosen their collar).

The strong emotional bond between owners and their pets may be part of the issue. Many owners express affection for their pet through feeding which can easily lead to the pet consuming more calories than it needs. In the survey 59 percent of cat and dog owners said that they feel rewarded when feeding their pet and 77 percent said their animal gets excited when they feed it.  Unfortunately, many owners are not fully aware of the consequences of over-feeding their pet.   61 percent of survey respondents were unaware that overweight pets may be susceptible to diabetes and orthopaedic disease and a similar lack of awareness was associated with reduced quality of life (53 percent), the risk of heart disease (53 percent) and a shorter lifespan (51 percent).

The survey results were announced ahead of the Royal Canin Weight Management Congress taking place in the UK on 21st and 22nd February.  Cat and dog owners in Brazil, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States were questioned for the survey which aimed to illuminate the growing issue of pet obesity.  Alongside the well-publicised human obesity epidemic, companion animals have similarly been getting heavier and heavier. 

 “Like humans, pets need to be at a healthy weight,” said Alex German, Professor of Small Animal Medicine at the University of Liverpool. UK.  “This is a very complex issue though and one that requires understanding and commitment from both pet owners and vets”. 

Many people monitor their own weight regularly, yet 40 percent do not know how much their cat or dog weighs and 22 percent say their pet has never been weighed.  72 percent of respondents to the survey said their vet had spoken to them about the emotional and health benefits of diet and exercise for their pet.  But two-thirds of cat and dog owners would like their vet to more actively advise them on their pet’s weight (67 percent) and 82 percent would like to be given healthy weight guidelines for their pet and advice on keeping them fit and healthy. 

“Our survey shows that pet owners are open to receiving more guidance about how to keep their cats and dogs fit and healthy,” commented Sandra McCune, Scientific Leader, Human-Animal Interaction at Mars Petcare who will be one of the speakers at the Weight Management Congress later this month.  “The focus of our work is increasingly on finding ways to support owners in knowing how to keep their pets healthy as well as happy.”

The Royal Canin Weight Management Congress is a two-day interactive event being held at The Nottingham Belfry Hotel on 21st and 22nd February.  More information about the event is available from


About the Survey

The survey was conducted online during January and February 2018.  The total sample size was 5,309 cat and dog owners who were responsible for their pet’s health and well-being (Brazil 1,068; China 1,036; Russian 1,111; United Kingdom 1,023 and United States 1,071). 

About Royal Canin

Royal Canin is a global leader in nutritional health for cats and dogs. Founded by veterinarian Jean Cathary in 1968, and built upon the belief that nutrition can not only improve the health of pets but also the quality of their lives, Royal Canin has over 50 years of experience in delivering tailored healthy nutrition to cats and dogs.

Passionate about creating a better world for pets through science and observation, Royal Canin places cats and dogs at the heart of the innovation process. Royal Canin partners with nutritionists, breeders and veterinarians from around the world, to tailor nutritional formulations to the individual needs of different breeds at different life stages and various lifestyles, and whose medical conditions may vary. Royal Canin diets are readily available at veterinary hospitals and in pet specialty stores. 

A subsidiary of Mars Incorporated, the global leader in the pet food industry, Royal Canin is based in Aimargues in the South of France and operates in over 50 markets counting on 7,000 Associates worldwide. To learn more about Royal Canin, visit the About us page

About Mars Petcare

Mars Petcare is the world’s leading pet nutrition and health care business that strives to bring to life their purpose A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS. Mars Petcare believes that pets make our lives better and that pet ownership brings joy and benefits which should be accessible to everyone. Mars Petcare has a total of 45 brands in our portfolio, including billion dollar brands PEDIGREE®, VCA®, WHISKAS®, ROYAL CANIN® and BANFIELD®. Other leading brands include: IAMS®, CESAR®, SHEBA®, NUTRO®, DREAMIES®, EUKANUBA®, BLUEPEARL® and PET PARTNERSTM. And the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, a leading scientific authority on pet nutrition and well-being. Mars Petcare has more than 70,000 Associates worldwide.

For more information about Mars Petcare, please visit the Mars website.

Like & share this page