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Pet Obesity Remains at Epidemic Levels According to New Research

Obesity Plagues Pets, Industry Being Challenged to Effect Change

CALABASH, N.C., MARCH 31, 2014—Most of the nation’s pets are overweight, and a majority of their owners are blind to the issue. New research, released by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), tells an alarming story. Veterinarians who assessed pets for the recent study recognized that more than half are overweight or obese. Cats carry the largest share of the obesity burden with 57.6 percent of the population recorded as overweight or obese. The dog population is close behind, with 52.6 percent of canines being classified as weighing too much.

“Among all diseases that perplex the veterinary community and plague our population of pets, obesity has the greatest collective negative impact on pet health, and yet it is almost completely avoidable,” said Dr. Ernie Ward, veterinarian and founder of APOP. “The pet industry is mighty and well-meaning, but it’s time we stop accepting the status quo. We must start working together to fight obesity through knowledge and action.”

Abundant Health Risks

Obesity by itself is classified as a disease, but the health conditions associated with obesity reveal the heart of the epidemic’s impact on pets and their owners. Osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, joint injury, various forms of cancer and decreased life expectancy are all linked to obesity in pets. “The body of evidence indicating that obesity causes costly and painful conditions is clear,” according to Dr. Joe Bartges, a veterinary nutritionist and internist who serves on the APOP board and as Small Animal Clinical Sciences department head at University of Tennessee Knoxville’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “Without the obesity risk factor in place, the likelihood of pets getting many serious diseases is inarguably reduced.”

The Fat Gap

Pet owners who agreed to have their pets assessed for the study were first asked to classify their pets’ weight. Among all pets that veterinarians ultimately classified as obese, a whopping 93 percent of dog owners and 88 percent of cat owners initially thought their pet was in the normal weight range. APOP refers to this disparity as the “fat gap.”

“The fat gap is rampant and we believe it’s the primary factor in the pet obesity epidemic,” said Bartges. Primary knowledge gaps also include the basics of how much food pets should get daily. “There’s an entire nation of pet owners who are loving their pets to death with too many calories and not enough exercise. They are in the dark that their pets are overweight and that a host of diseases can arise as a result,” Bartges said.

Awareness at Core of Problem

Since the fat gap has been around for years, a new online poll of U.S. pet owners conducted by APOP sought to better understand the dynamics of pet obesity. The survey indicated that 42 percent of dog and cat owners admitted they don’t know what a healthy weight for their pets looks like.

While most owners of overweight pets either don’t realize or can’t tell that their pet is obese, the pet owner poll indicated one ultimate obesity risk that resonates. Seventy-two percent of owners believe that obesity causes a decreased lifespan in pets. “There have been many news headlines about obesity causing grave diseases and conditions in humans, and I believe most pet owners are aware of this, so they associate the same risks with their pets,” Bartges said. “But until more pet owners recognize that their pet is in the obesity danger zone, we can’t expect them to make changes.”

Call for Action

This year, APOP will lead the creation of an industry coalition to amplify the organization’s impact. The APOP coalition will invite partnerships with organizations that share the common goal of fighting obesity and supporting pets and their owners to create the healthiest household possible. Through the strength of the coalition, APOP will better continue its mission of raising awareness of pet obesity and fighting the epidemic through the power of knowledge and actionable tools.

About the Research

The annual obesity prevalence survey is conducted by APOP. Veterinary practices that participated assessed the body condition scores of every dog and cat patient they saw for a regular wellness exam on a given day in October. Body condition scores based on a five-point scale and actual weight were used in classifying pets as either underweight, ideal, overweight or obese. The latest survey included the assessment of 1,421 dogs and cats. The supplementary online pet owner study was conducted by Trone Brand Energy in December 2013 and included 590 U.S. pet owners.

About APOP

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention was founded in 2005 by Dr. Ernie Ward with the primary mission of documenting pet obesity levels in the United States to raise awareness of the issue and its negative impact on pets. The APOP board is made up of veterinary nutritionists and internal medicine specialists. The Association conducts annual research to substantiate pet obesity prevalence levels in the United States and offers resources and tools to veterinarians and pet owners to better equip them to recognize and fight pet obesity. APOP will announce an industry alliance in 2014 with the goal of increasing the organization’s effectiveness.

National Pet Obesity Awareness Day


On Wednesday, October 9, 2013, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention will conduct our Seventh Annual Pet Obesity Awareness Day survey.

In order to do this, we need your help. On October 10 we are asking you to record simple information for each pet that you perform a routine examination on that day. How many pets and the detail of information you obtain is up to you. Obviously more is better but our goal is to determine more accurately the exact number of pets in the United States that are overweight or obese. Our past experience demonstrates that this should add no more than 1-2 minutes to your normal physical examination routine.

If you are interested, simply complete the form and we will contact you with handouts, instructions, and measuring tapes to complete the study. This study is independent of any and all corporate sponsorships or involvements. It is important that this study remain neutral to protect the integrity and interpretation of results. If you have any suggestions, questions, or concerns feel free to contact me directly: or 910-579-5550.

Please help us in our fight against obesity.

Join the 2013 Study

Veterinarian Sign Up

Pet Owner Sign Up


1392328881_pdfPet Obesity Awareness Day Study Instructions 2013

1392328881_pdfPet Obesity Day Study Data Sheets 2013

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2012 National Pet Obesity Survey Results

Pet Obesity Rates Rise, Cats Heavier Than Ever

Fifty-five Percent of U.S. Dogs and Cats Overweight in Latest Veterinary Survey


Calabash, N.C., March 12, 2013 – U.S. pet obesity rates continued to increase in 2012 with the number of overweight cats reaching an all-time high. The sixth annual National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found 52.5 percent of dogs and 58.3 percent of cats to be overweight or obese by their veterinarian. That equals approximately 80 million U.S. dogs and cats at increased risk for weight-related disorders such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, hypertension and many cancers.

52.5% of US Dogs Overweight or Obese or approximately 36.7 million

58.3% of US Cats Overweight or Obese or approximately 43.2 million

Screen Shot 2013-03-12 at 8.39.50 AM“Pet obesity remains the leading health threat to our nation’s pets.” states APOP’s founder and lead veterinarian for the survey Dr. Ernie Ward. “We continue to see an escalation in the number of overweight cats and an explosion in the number of type 2 diabetes cases.”

New York-based veterinary endocrinologist and APOP board member Dr. Mark Peterson agrees. “The soaring rate of feline and canine obesity is taking a terrible toll on our animals’ health. There is a vast population of overweight cats and dogs facing an epidemic of diabetes. The best preventive measure a pet owner can make is to keep their dog or cat at a healthy weight. Diabetes is far easier to prevent than treat, especially when twice daily insulin injections are needed.”

Veterinary nutritionist and internal medicine specialist at the University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine Dr. Joe Bartges cautions that many pet owners don’t recognize when their pet is overweight. “In this survey, approximately 45 percent of cat and dog owners assessed their pet as having a normal body weight when the veterinarian assessed the pet to be overweight.” Dr. Ward calls the phenomenon of incorrectly evaluating an overweight pet as normal “the fat gap.” “The disconnect between reality and what a pet parent thinks is obese makes having a conversation with their veterinarian more challenging. Many pet owners are shocked when their veterinarian informs them their pet needs to lose weight. They just don’t see it.”

Certain breeds showed greater risk for excess weight. Veterinary healthcare providers classified 58.9 percent of Labrador retrievers and 62.7 percent of golden retrievers surveyed as overweight or obese. Surgical specialist Dr. Steve Budsberg of the University of Georgia is particularly concerned about the development of weight-related musculoskeletal conditions. “Once again, our data shows that obesity is rampant and we are certainly setting up more and more dogs and cats for joint problems during their lives. This results in hundreds of millions of dollars in medical bills and countless surgical procedures for weight-related conditions. As a veterinary surgeon I find this extremely frustrating; this disease is easily treatable and even simpler to prevent. Feed your pet less, exercise them more and see your veterinarian at least once a year.”

Dr. Ward also sees a clear connection between pet and childhood obesity rates. “The causes of pet and childhood obesity are largely the same: too many high-calorie foods and snacks combined with too little physical activity. Parents need to encourage children to put down their video games and pick up the dog leash to go for a walk. Instead of snacking on sugary treats, share crunchy vegetables with your dog. Eat more whole foods instead of highly processed fast food.”

“This is a war veterinarians, pet owners and parents must win. Obesity is the number one preventable medical condition seen in veterinary hospitals today and is the fastest growing health threat of our nation’s children. Our goal is to help pets and people live longer, healthier, and pain-free lives by maintaining a healthy weight, proper nutrition, and physical activity. The most important decision a pet owner makes each day is what they choose to feed their pet. Choose wisely. Your pet’s life depends on it.”

Dr. Ernie Ward, founder of Association for Pet Obesity Prevention

  • The 2012 survey, conducted in October and December 2012, analyzed data from 121 veterinary clinics in 36 states
  • 1,485 dogs and 450 cats were assessed
  • Cats: 4.4% male, 49.6% male neutered, 6.2% female, 39.8% female spayed
  • Dogs: 8.4% male, 39.1% male neutered, 6.0% female, 46.5% female spayed
  • Median age of surveyed pets: Dogs – 6 years of age, Cats – 6 years of age
  • Dogs and cats were classified by veterinary clinics as: BCS 1 – Underweight, BCS 2 – Thin but normal, BCS 3 – Ideal weight, BCS 4 – Overweight, BCS 5 – Obese
  • Based on 2012 survey results and 2012 American Veterinary Medical Association data 80 million U.S. dogs and cats are overweight or obese.
  • Based on 2012 survey results and 2012 American Veterinary Medical Association data
    • An estimated 43.2 million cats or 58.3% are overweight or obese (74.1 million U.S. pet cats, 2012 AVMA)
      • 29.3 million cats BCS 4 – Overweight
      • 13.9 million cats BCS 5 – Obese
    • An estimated 36.7 million dogs or 52.5% are overweight or obese (70 million U.S. pet dogs, 2012 AVMA)
      • 25.7 million dogs BCS 4 – Overweight
      • 11 million dogs BCS 5 – Obese
  • Labrador retrievers were the most common pure breed in the study (141/1485, 9.5% total surveyed)
    • 58.9% were classified as overweight or obese
      • 42.6% – Overweight
      • 16.3% – Obese
  • German shepherds had the lowest reported pure breed Obesity (BCS 5) rate of 2.1%
  • 45.8% of dog owners incorrectly identified their overweight or obese dogs as “normal weight” when asked by their veterinary clinic to assess their pet’s current body condition (pet owner’s choices were too thin, normal, overweight, obese)
  • 45.3% of cat owners incorrectly identified their overweight or obese cats as “normal weight” when asked by their veterinary clinic to assess their pet’s current body condition (pet owner’s choices were too thin, normal, overweight, obese)














Ernie Ward, DVM, CVFT

910-620-1295 / 910-579-5550

Mark Peterson, DVM, Dip. ACVIM


Big Pets Get Bigger: Latest Survey Shows Dog and Cat Obesity Epidemic Expanding

(Calabash, NC – February 6, 2012)

54% of Nation’s Pets Overweight According to Latest Veterinary Survey; Pet Owners in Denial

The “fat pet gap” continues to widen according to the latest nationwide survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). The fifth annual veterinary survey found 53 percent of adult dogs and 55 percent of cats to be classified as overweight or obese by their veterinarian. That equals 88.4 million pets that are too heavy according to veterinarians.

“The most distressing finding in this year’s study was the fact that more pet owners are unaware their pet is overweight.” comments APOP founder Dr. Ernie Ward. “22 percent of dog owners and 15 percent of cat owners characterized their pet as normal weight when it was actually overweight or obese. This is what I refer to as the “fat pet gap” or the normalization of obesity by pet parents. In simplest terms, we’ve made fat pets the new normal.”

Perhaps even worse was the finding that the number of obese pets, those at least 30 percent above normal weight or a body condition score (BCS) of 5, continues to grow despite 93.4 percent of surveyed pet owners identifying pet obesity as a problem. The study found 24.9 percent of all cats were classified as obese and 21.4 percent of all dogs were obese in 2011. That’s up from 2010 when 21.6 percent of cats and 20.6 percent of dogs were found to be obese. “What this tells us is that more and more of our pets are entering into the highest danger zone for weight-related disorders.” says Ward.

Some of the common weight-related conditions in dogs and cats include osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, breathing problems, kidney disease, and shortened life expectancy. Orthopedic surgeon, APOP Board member and Director of Clinical Research at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine Dr. Steve Budsberg states that “The prevention of obesity needs to be at the forefront of all discussions people have about the health of their pet with their veterinarian. The body of evidence that shows the negative impact of obesity on all the body’s systems is overwhelming. As an orthopedic surgeon I see, on a daily basis, the effects of obesity on dogs and cats with osteoarthritis. It is very frustrating to see how much pain and discomfort excess weight has on my patients. Veterinarians and owners have the ability to stop obesity in our pets. No animal goes to the refrigerator or the pantry and helps themselves. We enable our pets to get fat!”

Ward agrees. “Pet obesity is plainly a people problem, not a pet problem. The most important decision pet owners make each day regarding their pet’s health is what they choose to feed it.”

Endocrinologist and fellow APOP Board member Dr. Mark Peterson agrees. “Obesity in dogs and cats is not just the accumulation of large amounts of adipose tissue, but it is associated with important metabolic and hormonal changes in the body. For example, heavy or obese cats are up to four times more likely to develop diabetes as a complication of their obesity. Losing weight can lead to reversal of the diabetic state in some of these obese cats.”

Treats continue to be a major contributor to weight gain in pets. An online poll conducted in October 2011 by APOP of 210 pet owners found 93 percent of all dog and cat owners gave treats. 95 percent gave a commercial treat with 26 percent reporting they gave their pet treats three or more times a day. “Treats are the silent saboteur of slimming down.” remarks Ward. “Those tiny treats are often hiding a significant amount of calories.” Ward suggests offering single-ingredient rewards or fresh vegetables such as baby carrots, string beans, broccoli or other crunchy vegetables.

Veterinary nutritionist and internal medicine specialist Dr. Joe Bartges from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine and APOP Board member notes that weight gain in pets can be prevented. “Prevention of obesity is much easier than treating it. The major obstacle is to convince pet owners what “overweight” and “obese” means and what it looks like. Veterinary health teams must educate the owner and work with them to prevent and treat obesity in their four-legged family members.”

Fat Cats Not In the Conversation

Only 49% of surveyed cat owners reported their veterinarian had discussed obesity and excess weight with them compared to 72% of dog owners. Even worse, only 46% of cat owners stated their veterinarian had reviewed nutrition or food choices compared to 86% of those with dogs. “This is a call to action for veterinarians; we must do a better job educating cat owners on obesity and preventive care.” says Dr. Ernie Ward.

Survey Notes

The survey was conducted at 41 US veterinary clinics and evaluated 459 dogs and 177 cats in October 2011. Veterinarians and veterinary technicians evaluated each pet to assess current weight, medical conditions, owner assessment of weight and body condition score. Over the five years studied, these results have proven to be consistent and increasing at a gradual pace.

Additional Survey Highlights

  • According to APOP’s survey results based on pet statistics from the American Pet Products Association, the following are estimated numbers of overweight and obese pets in 2011.
    • 41.1 million dogs classified as overweight or obese (BCS 4 or 5)
      • 53% adult dogs classified as overweight or obese (BCS 4 or 5)
      • 24.4 million dogs or 31.2% reported as overweight (BCS 4)
      • 16.7 million dogs or 21.4% reported obese (BCS 5)
  • 47.3 million cats classified as overweight or obese (BCS 4 or 5)
    • 55% adult cats classified as overweight or obese (BCS 4 or 5)
    • 25.8 million cats or 29.9% reported as overweight (BCS 4)
    • 21.5 million cats or 24.9% reported obese (BCS 5)
    • Only 8% of dog owners and 9% of cat owners classified their pet as obese in the online study. That’s less than half the actual figures determined by survey veterinarians. “The fact that few pet owners admit their pet is obese leads to a lack of interest in helping their pet lose weight. They know it’s a problem, just not for their pet. Unfortunately, the data doesn’t agree. Chances are their pet is overweight if not obese.” Dr. Ernie Ward
    • Average age of the cats in the study was 6.7 years and 6.4 years for dogs.
    • 16.8% of pet owners reported they purchased their pet food at a veterinary clinic, 61.1% at a pet store and 22.2% at a grocery store.
    • 76% of surveyed pet owners reported they learned about pet nutrition from their veterinarian, 71.5% from the internet, 22% from a pet store, 5.5% from a breeder, and 2.0% from a groomer. (multiple sources of information were allowed)
    • When it came to deciding which pet food to feed, 69.4% trusted their veterinarian, 36.3% a website, 20.6% a pet store, 4.4% a breeder, and 1.3% their groomer.
    • According to Dr. Ernie Ward, a 95-pound male Golden retriever is comparable to a 5’4” human female weighing 184 pounds or a 5’9” male that weighs 214 pounds.
    • A 10-pound Chihuahua is comparable to a 5’4” human female weighing 242 pounds or a 5’9” male that weighs 282 pounds.
    • A 15-pound domestic short-haired cat is comparable to a 5’4” human female weighing 218 pounds or a 5’9” male that weighs 254 pounds.
    • A premium pig ear (231 kcals) fed to a 40-pound dog is the equivalent of an adult human drinking six 12-ounce Coke Classics™ (840 kcals).
    • A typical dog biscuit (25 to 27 kcals) fed to a 20-pound dog is the equivalent of an average adult human eating two Keebler EL Fudge Double Stuffed Sandwich Cookies (180 kcals).
    • More weight and treat calculators can be found at

About APOP

Founded in 2005 by veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward, APOP’s mission is to create and promote awareness of pet obesity and to develop parallel weight loss programs designed to help pet owners lose weight alongside their pets.

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) has launched campaigns to fight pet obesity within the veterinary medical community, veterinary schools, and state and local veterinary organizations, and has reached out to various media outlets. APOP is made up of dedicated veterinarians and veterinary healthcare personnel committed to making the lives of dogs, cats, all other animals and people healthier and more vital.

APOP is not affiliated with any veterinary industry corporation or business in any manner. This neutrality is critical to our ability to provide unbiased information and advice to veterinary healthcare providers and the pet-loving public.

Click here for APOP Survey 2011 in PDF format

Contact for full biography and additional resources and information

Dr. Ernie Ward 910-579-5550

Dr. Steven Budsberg 706-542-6314

Dr. Joe Bartges 865-974-8387

Dr. Mark Peterson 212-362-2650


Avoid a Pet Emergency Super Sunday Overtime: Championship Game Parties Can be Dangerous to your Dog and Cat

Dr. Ernie Ward

(February 3, 2012 – Calabash, NC)

Your Super Sunday party may be dangerous to your pet. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) offers tips to pet owners to make sure their Big Game party activities don’t end up with an overtime veterinary emergency.

Super Sunday now trails only Thanksgiving in terms of US food consumption. This enormous engorgement not only threatens many weight loss resolutions, it also may add unhealthy pounds and dangers to our dogs and cats. Sharing a few nibbles of healthy snacks such as celery or carrots is fine, pizza and wings are not.

“When we look at weight gain in humans and pets, big single-day caloric consumption can have life-long consequences.” notes Dr. Ernie Ward, founder and President of APOP. “A pet can be fed a healthy, low-calorie diet and have their efforts erased with a huge feast.”

Ward points out several foods to avoid feeding your pet on Super Sunday. “Don’t feed your pet anything fried or battered, covered in creamy sauces and steer clear of salty snacks.” In fact, Ward recommends limiting any super snacks to “crunchy vegetables such as broccoli, baby carrots, celery and asparagus.” According to Ward, each chicken wing has about 55 calories. A 20-pound dog fed a single chicken wing is similar to an average adult eating almost seven wings. Feed a 40-pound dog one-half slice of pepperoni pizza and that’s the same as an adult consuming two slices of pepperoni pizza and a 12-ounce cola.

It’s not just the calories that worry Ward. “Americans will eat about 1.25 billion chicken wings during the Big Game. That equals 1.25 billion chances for a dog or cat to ingest a bone that can cause serious complications.” APOP warns pet owners not to feed their pets chicken wings due to the risk of intestinal obstruction or worse.

“An often overlooked risk of chicken wings is salt,” states Ward. “One buffalo wing has almost about 160 to 200 mg of sodium. That’s about the amount of sodium recommended for a 20-pound dog in a day. Feeding a dog too much salt can cause high blood pressure and can contribute to kidney and heart disease.” Other foods high in salt that should not be fed to pets include pizza, hamburgers and cheeseburgers, fries, pretzels, potato chips, canned beef stew, potato salad and many sauces.

“Chicken wing bones and salt are not the only potential dangers a pet may face on Championship Sunday.” adds University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine veterinary nutritionist and internal medicine specialist Dr. Joe Bartges. “Foods such as chocolate, raisins, macadamia nuts, and foods containing Xylitol may be toxic. Eating foods high in fat not only increases calorie intake, but may cause problems such as vomiting and diarrhea or life-threatening pancreatitis.”

Alcohol is another potential danger for pets. Dogs and cats are extremely sensitive to alcoholic beverages and will often drink from half-empty cups and bottles and become ill. As little as a few ounces of beer or wine can prove toxic to a dog or cat. APOP recommends never leaving alcoholic beverages unattended and discard any containers as soon as you’re done.

One final Super Sunday danger Ward warns about – stress. “You may have friends and family over, rooting for your favorite team with lots of loud noises and high-fiving. All of this may prove especially stressful for the four-legged family members that have little interest in the big game. If you notice your dog or cat cowering or pacing, provide a quiet, safe space for them to relax away from the action. Otherwise, you may be awakened early Monday morning by unwelcome stress-related diarrhea.”



Association for Pet Obesity Prevention

9256 Beach Drive

Calabash, NC 28467

Dr.  Ernie Ward



Dr. Joe Bartges


# # #

Pet Obesity Awareness Surveys for Pet Owners

Thank you for helping us better understand pet obesity. Please take a few minutes to complete one or both of these surveys.

The first survey allows you to record your pet’s weight data. You will need to weigh your pet as accurately as possible. You may weigh yourself, then weigh yourself holding your pet and record the difference.  

 Click here to enter your pet’s weight information

The second survey concerns pet owner’s attitudes about pet obesity, diet and exercise. It consists of 10 simple questions that will take only a couple of minutes to complete.

Click here to take the 2011 National Pet Obesity survey

Thank you for your help. Your efforts will help veterinarians better understand pet obesity and provide pets with better medical care.

Please share with your friend’s on Facebook, Twitter, Google+.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at

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Fat Pets Getting Fatter According to Latest Survey

NOTE: These are the 2010 survey results. 2011 results will be released Tuesday, February 7, 2012

(Calabash, NC – February 23, 2011)
Over Half the Nation’s Dogs and Cats Now Overweight Costing Pet’s Years and Owners Millions.

Obesity continues to expand in both pets and people according to the latest pet obesity study. The fourth annual Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Study found approximately 53% of cats and 55% of dogs were overweight or obese. Preliminary data released from a nationwide collaboration with Banfield, the nation’s largest chain of veterinary clinics, reveals pet obesity continues to be a serious problem. APOP founder Dr. Ernie Ward remarks, “This year’s data suggests that our pets are getting fatter. We’re seeing a greater percentage of obese pets than ever before.”

32% of cats in the preliminary sample were classified as overweight by their veterinarian and 21.6% were observed to be clinically obese or greater than 30% of normal body weight. 35% of dogs were found to be overweight and 20.6% obese. “While the general trend of overweight pets has remained fairly steady at around 50%, the number of obese pets is growing. This is troubling because it means more pets will be affected by weight-related diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease costing pet owners millions in avoidable medical costs.”

The group began conducting nationwide veterinary surveys in 2007 and has seen a steady increase in the percentage of pets classified as obese or at least 30% above normal body weight. In 2007, roughly 19% of cats were found to be obese by their veterinarian and in 2010 that number increased to almost 22%. For dogs, obesity rates escalated from just over 10% in 2007 to 20% in 2010. “One of the reasons we think the obesity rate for dogs has dramatically increased is due to a better understanding of what an obese dog looks like. Veterinarians also realize how critical it is to tell a pet owner when their dog is in danger due to its weight.” comments Ward.

Proof that pet obesity is an important topic among veterinarians is the fact that the nation’s largest group of veterinary clinics, Banfield Pet Hospital, joined APOP in this year’s study. “Banfield is committed to improving the health and well-being of pets—weight-related disorders are a major concern for us,” states Dr. Elizabeth Lund, a veterinary epidemiologist and Banfield’s Senior Director of Research. “Preventive care is at the core of Banfield’s mission and we are incorporating weight assessment and counseling into each patient visit.”

Increased awareness can help prevent serious injuries. “As a surgeon, many of the joint problems I treat are related to excess weight. If pet owners could keep their pet at a normal weight, many of these surgeries could be avoided.” remarks Dr. Steven Budsberg of the University of Georgia and past-president of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. “Even more important is the impact obesity has on joints and the arthritic changes that are often crippling. Many overweight pets experience severe joint pain that could easily be prevented by proper diet and exercise.”

Ward sums it up, “The bottom line with our annual surveys is that pets are battling excess weight just as their owners are. Our ultimate goal is to help pet owners better care for both themselves and their pets through better diet, exercise and lifestyle strategies.”

APOP Study Preliminary Data

133 adult cats

383 adult dogs

29 clinics representing 29 US states

average age of dogs 6 years, 2 months

average age of  cats 7 years, 4 months

Of the patients participating in the APOP survey on 10/13/2010, 35% of dogs and 31.6% of cats were overweight, while 20.6 and 21.8% were obese, respectively. Overall, 55.6% of dogs and 53.4% of cats were either overweight or obese.

From the initial dataset, 35% of dogs and 32.1% of cats were overweight and 20.6% of dogs and 21.6% of cats were obese. Overall, 55.6% of dogs and 53.7% of cats were either overweight or obese. 6.7% of cats were classified as “thin” or body condition score of 2. 5.2% of dogs were reported as BCS 2. No cats in the study were found to be “underweight” or BCS 1 while 0.26% of dogs were underweight.

Based on these initial estimates, approximately 50 million cats and 43 million dogs are believed to be overweight or obese.

More complete data analysis will be available in a forthcoming peer-reviewed veterinary medical journal.

Body Condition Score (BCS)

1 = Underweight, 2 = Thin but Normal, 3 = Normal, 4 = Overweight, 5 = Obese

Obese Cat – 19 pounds, Ideal weight 10 lbs.

Analogous to a 5’4” female adult weighing 276 lbs (131 lbs over maximum normal weight of 145 lbs) or 5’9” male weighing 321 lbs. (152 lbs. over maximum normal weight of 169 lbs)

Obese Dog – 48 lbs, Ideal weight 20-22 lbs.

Analogous to a 5’4” female adult weighing 317 lbs (172 lbs over maximum normal weight of 145 lbs) or 5’9” male weighing 368 lbs. (199 lbs over maximum normal weight of 169 lbs)


Dr. Ernie Ward



Dr. Steven Budsberg


Dr. Elizabeth Lund


APOP Featured in Wall Street Journal

Two Executive Board members for APOP were featured in the February 22, 2011 issue of the Wall Street Journal. Reporter Gwendolyn Bounds looked at the issues surrounding the pet obesity epidemic in an in-depth review.

The article may be read here.

Top pet fitness and weight loss products of 2010

Download a pdf of this report by clicking here
Download pictures of products here

Calabash, NC—December 2, 2010. Half of the nearly 171 million dogs and cats in the US are now overweight. The pet industry is helping combat the pet obesity epidemic by developing innovative and effective exercise and weight loss products. Once again the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) is proud to announce its annual Top Pet Fitness and Weight Loss Products for 2010. If you’re looking to give your pet a healthy gift this holiday season, consider these offerings.

Harnesses and Leashes

“Exercise is critical to keeping your pet fit and healthy,” states Dr. Ernie Ward, Founder and President of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention and lead product researcher. “A comfortable leash and harness system is a must for exercising with your dog.”

Canicross Belt – Canadog

What is canicross, you ask? Our testers were scratching their heads at first, too. Imagine trail running while being pulled by your dog and you’re pretty close. “While canicross has been popular in Europe for the past 20 years, our dog tester’s lack of familiarity with the sport didn’t deter them from loving this walking belt.”  observes Dr. Ward. “The fact that you leash up your dog (or dogs) to the waist belt keeps your hands free for a wide variety of exercises and or sports.” comments Melissa Morrison, trainer with Fur Fitness in Upland, California. The belt comes complete with a snug bottle holder and a pouch perfect for a cell phone, keys, and or sanitary bags. An optional collapsible water bowl is recommended for longer treks. Morrison sums it up, “This is a product that could change someone’s life.  It makes one want out of their sedentary lifestyle and get outside to be active with your companion.”


Tru-Fit Smart Harness – Kurgo

“We’re always on the lookout for everyday accessories that have multiple uses. This is a not only a great walking harness for your dog, but also a car restraint device.” notes Dr. Ward. Testers liked that they could easily slip on the harness and attach it to their existing seatbelts for a quick trip to the park.


Wacky Walk’R

“The Wacky Walk’r is a bonafide eye-catcher; with its bright colors and unique blend of standard, sturdy leash material that seamlessly connects to the more prominent “wacky” or “stretchy” part of this connector.” says Melissa Morrison. The “wacky” Morrison is referring to is a length of rubber tubing that stretches if/when your dog pulls on the leash. “I’d much rather people teach their dog to walk without pulling; however, squirrels happen. This leash is great for taking the stress out of those occasional lunges.” responds Ward.



“Play is an important part of keeping pets physically and mentally healthy,” emphasizes Ward. “While there is no substitute for one-on-one interaction, we’ve found some toys that can ramp up the fun for everyone.”

Wood Chuck with Orbee-Tuff RecycleBall – Planet Dog

“This year we were looking for environmentally-conscious products,” reveals tester Joanne Shumbo. “As the proud mama of two active rescues, this is exactly the type of toy we were looking for.” Throw after throw, the all-natural chucker allowed even the most petite dog owner to throw a ball long distances. The wood chuck is made of durable bamboo and reused cork scraps while the ball is made from “regrinded” rubber that normally would be discarded.


Go get it! – Petmate

“We’ve tested many ball launchers. What makes this product innovative is that it collapses for easy storage.” explains Dr. Ward. The 24” Go get it! uses regular tennis balls and shrinks to less than 10” for easy carrying. “I’ve got one stowed in my glove box for impromptu fetch sessions.”  says Ward.


Sway – FroliCat

“Cat owners never tire of watching cats bat things around,” jokes Joanne Shumbo. “This new toy does just that – and only that.”   Made by the same folks that brought us Dr. Ward’s favorite cat exercise device of 2009, Sway promises to provide hours of essential play for your cat. “I like the simplicity and the fact that my own cats couldn’t get enough of it.” says Ward. “I don’t think it will replace my Bolt, but it has quickly become one of our family’s favorite cat toys.”


Dog Casino – Nina Ottosson

We’ve got to confess: we have a crush on Nina Ottosson products. Maybe it’s the sleek lines, Euro-chic styling or the fact they’re so smart – whatever it is we can’t seem to get enough of it. This year we’re crushing on the Dog Casino. Basically a really cool food puzzle, your dog must dislodge several removable bones and then open hidden doors to hit the treat jackpot. As your dog learns how to beat the house, you can increase the difficulty. “My dog Sandy is still on the easiest setting,” discloses Dr. Ward. “We’re guessing she just isn’t a very good gambler.”


My Agility Set (Toy) – Oscar Newman Luxury Pet Couture

This is one toy too cute to ignore. Imagine a real grown-up dog agility set made out of tiny, soft pastel-colored poles and tunnels. If you’re the owner of a toy breed that needs to get active, this is just what your stylist ordered. “What I like about this toy breed agility set is that it allows you to exercise them without ever touching, dare I say it, dirt.” jokes Dr. Ward. Commence making You Tube videos.


Technology Products

“I am a techie-geek-exercise enthusiast.” states Dr. Ernie Ward. “Each year I love trying out the cool gadgets and figuring out what helps people and pets get fit together.”


“Wow. That’s what everyone said after seeing this product.” gushes Dr. Ward. “With our busy schedules, work and dogs, we’re always mixing up medications, feeding and no one ever knows if the dogs got walked.” shares tester Julie Mullins. Wonder no more; the Dog-e-Minder is a small device that looks like a dog tag but does a whole lot more. When you walk, feed or give your pet’s meds simply press the corresponding button and it records it. To see when you last walked your dog, press the button and the device displays it. “Until we have the ‘Dog Translator Collar’ from the movie ‘UP,’ this is as close as we’re going to get.” remarks Ward.


SpotLight GPS Pet Locator

“Every dog owner’s greatest fear is losing their pet.” observes Mullins.  “This is one way to reduce that worry.” Weighing less than 3 ounces, the small box attaches to your dog’s collar. The GPS uses satellites and a cell-phone connection to help locate your dog. “This device is so smart it texts and emails you when the rechargeable battery is low.” Comments Ward. “You can set up safe zones and be alerted if your dog leaves those areas. You can track your dog’s location online to retrieve them should they escape.” The device also boasts an LED beacon that can be activated to help you see your lost dog in the dark. While not cheap, the peace-of-mind the SpotLight provides is priceless.



Ever imagine what it looks like to eat kibble from a dish? How clean is the inside of that litter box, anyway? These and other answers to silly questions can be found by using this itsy-bitsy video camera that your pet wears on its collar. “The reason we liked this product was that it is really cool.” Muses Ward. “The ability to record and share your dog’s run from their point of view is motivation to go do it for many.” My Agility Set + Eyenimal = You Tube Sensation.


Other Products

FitPaws Balance Disc – Ball Dynamics

We love exercising with balance balls, disks and all sorts of devices that strengthen our core. Now your dog can love it, too. This hard rubber half-ball is just the right size for dogs and is a great addition to any canine core workout. “I like balance disks because you can exercise your dog indoors and are great for building legs muscles weakened by surgery or arthritis.” says Ward. “Games like ‘high-low’ become much easier to play.” Our testers liked the almost limitless games you can engage your dog in and the fact that even our tiniest testers had a ball (pun intended).


HyperKewl Evaporative Cooling Dog Coat – TechNiche International

What do the military, police and high-tech construction workers have in common? Many work in extreme heat conditions. Your dog can now benefit from the same technology that keeps our fighting forces cool in the Middle East. “If you have a giant or long-haired dog, running in the summer months can pose a health hazard for your pet.” remarks Dr. Ward. “To combat potential hyperthermia or heat stroke, we liked the HyperKewl coat.” You soak the vest and it cools your dog for 5 to 10 hours, according to the manufacturer.


CocoTherapy Coconut Chips

Coconuts have become the HOT health food for 2010 – and pets are no exception to this trend. “The coconut chips are a great healthy snack with some noteworthy, healthy side-effects.” states Melissa Morrison of FurFitness. “Coconuts are an excellent source of dietary fiber, protein and many vitamins and minerals.” says Dr. Ward. These dehydrated chips are low in calories and an excellent natural treat for dogs.


See Me Reflective Leash and Collar Covers – Pat Bay International

Many dog owners walk their dogs when there’s little light out – early in the morning and late at night. We don’t mind. What we want is for others to be able to see you. Enter the See Me. This handy little product slips over your existing collar or leash and – presto – you’ve got a highly visible reflective protector. Testers liked the fact that this inexpensive reflector worked with their designer doggie duds. “I’ve already got a leash and collar combo I really liked, only they weren’t reflective.” says tester Joanne Shumbo. “This solved my winter walking woes.”


All products mentioned are trademarks of their respective owners.

About this Report and Product Selection

None of the products tested and selected were obtained free of charge nor did APOP inform the product manufacturers that their product was being considered. Further, the manufacturers did not contact APOP or product testers during the evaluation process. The manufacturers were notified of their selection only after the final report was complete. Products were rated on innovation, practicality, availability, cost/benefit, durability, ease of use, and pet/owner acceptance.

About APOP and Dr. Ward

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention is an independent organization not associated with any veterinary pharmaceutical, pet food, or other veterinary industry organization founded in 2005. Dr. Ernie Ward is a licensed veterinarian, certified personal trainer, and USA Triathlon accredited coach. He and APOP help people and pets lose weight and sustain a healthy lifestyle by creating parallel weight loss and lifestyle programs.


Dr. Ernie Ward 910-579-5550

Melissa Morrison 877-387-3486

# # #

What Not to Feed Your Pet: Vets Warn Pet Owners on National Pet Obesity Awareness Day

For Immediate Release

Calabash, North Carolina – Oct. 7, 2010 – Everyone’s heard that we humans have a little weight problem. Okay, a huge weight problem. Studies show we’re now sharing those excess pounds with our pets. On October 13, 2010, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) will set out once again to determine how many of our furry friends are too fat.

“As a practicing veterinarian for almost twenty years, I’ve never seen this many overweight pets.” remarks Dr. Ernie Ward, founder and president of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. “We’re witnessing the super-sizing of America’s pets before our very eyes.”

All that super-sizing carries a hefty price. Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) claims it pays out over $14 million in weight-related claims each year. “It’s not only the cost in tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars in largely preventable medical expenses that concerns me.” reports Dr. Ward. “It’s the incalculable suffering and needless loss of life that compels me to take action against obesity. Pet obesity is by far the greatest health threat our pets face.”

APOP will conduct its fourth annual National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Study October 13, 2010 in almost 1,000 veterinary clinics nationwide. “This year we’ve teamed up with Banfield Pet Hospital, the largest group of veterinary clinics in North America, to increase the number of pets in the study. Banfield’s commitment to helping us wage the war against pet obesity is a welcome addition to our efforts.”

Last year’s study revealed 45 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats were classified as overweight or obese by their vets. This equals almost 90 million pets at risk for developing diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney and respiratory disease and many forms of cancer.

Ward says high calorie treats are a major cause of the problem. “Many of today’s treats are so full of sugar and fat that I call them “Kibble Crack” because they can cause the same sorts of changes to brain chemistry as illicit drugs.” Ward goes further to state that pets are often fed several treats per day. “I’m not against treats; I’m against too many treats. It’s no different than eating dessert at breakfast, lunch and supper and then enjoying a few in-between meal snacks. We’ve become a nation of mega-treaters.”

In Ward’s book on pet obesity, “Chow Hounds: Why Our Dogs Are Getting Fatter,” he calculates the impact even small treats have on a dog’s weight. “If an average 20-pound dog eats a Snausages SnawsomesPeanut Butter and Apple Flavor treat, it’s the same as an average human eating half of a large Domino’s Pizza with Extra Cheese.”

Other of Ward’s “What Not to Feed” treats include:

- 1 Purina Busy Bone, size small/medium fed to a 40-pound dog is similar to an adult eating 4 McDonald’s Egg McMuffins
- 1 Milk-Bones Large Dog Biscuit fed to a 60-pound dog is the same as an adult eating 1 Snickers Bar
- 1 Pup-Peroni fed to a 10-pound dog is equal to an adult eating a Little Debbie Fudge Brownie
- 1 Premium Pig Ear fed to a 40-pound dog is no different than an adult drinking 6 12-ounce Coke Classics
- ½ hot dog wiener fed to a 20-pound dog is equivalent to an adult eating an 8-ounce choice, lean broiled T-bone steak
- ½ tablespoon Jif Creamy Peanut Butter fed to a 40-pound dog is the same as an adult eating 1 McDonald’s Sausage Patty
- 1 McDonald’s Cheeseburger eaten by a 60-pound dog is similar to an adult munching on 2 Taco Bell Taco Supremes and 1 20-ounce Coke Classic

“Because pet treats aren’t required to list calories on their labels, most pet owners aren’t aware of the dangers many treats pose. Our organization’s goal is to raise awareness about the causes and treatments for pet obesity in order to help pets and people live longer, healthier lives.”

For more information, visit

Dr. Ernie Ward
9256 Beach Drive
Calabash, NC 28469
Ph: 910-579-5550