While obesity was a rising problem among pets in the U.S. before COVID-19, a new survey reveals how the pandemic has intensified the issue.
The survey from Hill’s Pet Nutrition, conducted with Kelton Global, asked 1,021 U.S. cat and dog owners as well as 257 veterinarians about pets’ weight, eating habits and activity levels in 2020.
According to the results, one third (33%) of pet parents with an overweight pet claim their pet became overweight since the start of COVID-19. One potential reason behind this weight gain is too much love being shown in the form of treats, since more than half (53%) of owners say they’ve been giving their pets treats for no reason during the pandemic.
The holidays also appear to be a driver of bad habits, with almost 64% of pet parents admitting to spoiling their animals during the holidays. As a result, approximately 60% of veterinarians anticipate the pets they see after the new year are more likely to be overweight or obese.
Unfortunately, 91% of veterinarians say helping pets lose those extra pounds is harder than pet parents think. The pandemic doesn’t seem to be helping the effort, with 49% of vets saying it’s harder for owners to keep pets at a healthy weight during the pandemic compared to before. Most veterinarians agree that the keys to pets’ weight loss is fewer treats (91%), more exercise (91%) and fewer table scraps (90%).
Luckily, most pet parents also recognize these weight loss techniques. Nearly half (49%) are even willing to go on a diet if it helps their pet have a healthier weight. Many (31%) are also willing to give up social media for a month to help their pet lose weight.
"Hill's Pet Nutrition is committed to ending pet obesity, so all pets can live long, healthy lives with their beloved families," said Dr. Marina Debernardi, DVM PhD, Global Chief Professional Veterinary at Hill's Pet Nutrition. "We hope these new insights will help pet parents think differently about how they can express their love to their pets and spark conversations with their veterinarians. A simple step is to start with better nutrition and becoming more aware of your feeding habits and the impact it can have your pet's life."