Pet obesity is no laughing matter.

obese cat, overfeeding a pet, irresponsible ownership, cruelty to cats

We should view obesity in pets as an act of causing unnecessary suffering in the same way as starving an animal.

Obese dog, overfeeding, cruelty, unnecessary suffering

It is a sad reflection of our attitude to animals that we are happy to upload videos onto social media sites like YouTube which ridicule fat animals that are struggling to walk, stand or perform natural behaviours. Many seem to find this entertaining, which is clear by the fact the “Likes” on these videos always out-number the thumbs down.

The video below, which rightly disgusted one of my friends who shared it with me, is as she inferred in her post, a good advert for viewing the act of overfeeding an animal a prosecutable offence. It is just as much causing unnecessary suffering as starving an animal to near death.

“Canine obesity classed as a disease”

Obesity in pets has been in the news recently and countless surveys have shown that just like humans over-feeding and obesity in our pets is on the increase. According to a British Veterinary Association (BVA) survey which polled 1,600 vets, 60% said obesity is the biggest health and welfare concern for UK pets. A recent World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) One Health meeting officially classed canine obesity as a disease.

Prof. Susan Dawson, President of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) stated: “All companion animals deserve a nutritionally balanced diet; in fact it is a requirement of the Animal Welfare Acts”. 

“A case of killing with kindness”

Gudrun Ravetz, President of the BVA has said: “Obesity is a potential killer for pets and many owners show love for their pet through food, but often this is a case of killing with kindness – most animals would instead enjoy playing or interacting with their owner just as much as getting a treat”. Source

In the USA 60% of cats and 56% of dogs are judged as obese. A 2017 study of over 1600 dogs in the UK showed that 65% of dogs over 2 years old were overweight and 9% clinically obese. Source

Dogs under 2 years old fared little better with 37% overweight and 3% obese. Obesity is a life threatening ailment and can lead to a variety of conditions such as shortened lifespan, heart disease, kidney and respiratory problems, strain on joints, arthritis and diabetes.

If the situation is so serious why do we not treat the problem more seriously?

None of the publicity asks the vital question of whether we should consider the act of over-feeding a pet as an act of causing unnecessary suffering or cruelty particularly when it reaches the point of preventing the animal from enjoying its natural behaviours and functioning as a normal dog or cat.

Despite all the evidence that it causes an animal harm and is avoidable we  just view the owners as misinformed and ignorant souls who need educating. We do not take the animal from their care or prosecute them when in many cases it is obvious that the animal is suffering both mentally and physically. We have a similar situation when it involves children.

Obesity in cats, overweight cat,
Cats are just as susceptible to obesity as dogs.

There is a lot of ringing of hands in the veterinary profession of not taking the subject seriously enough and not doing enough to combat obesity in pets particularly dogs, but blaming vets for not weighing dogs and recording notes during consultations is not really the answer.

The fault lies with the irresponsible owners.

Vets are busy enough as it is without having to take on what is the responsibility of the owners who must be aware of when their pet is getting overweight and capable of doing something about it. Surveys suggest that 33% of owners only take their dog for a short walk once a day if they are lucky, 68% do not check they are feeding the right amount for the size of animal, 26% feed leftovers and 30% never check their pets’ weight. Are these the actions of a responsible owner?

I firmly believe that overfeeding a dog or cat and allowing it to become morbidly overweight equates to causing it unnecessary suffering and is an act of cruelty and must dealt with in the same way as an animal that has been almost starved to death. Removal of a pet should also be considered as owners often lack the will-power and ability to diet their pets, which is clear by them allowing it to happen in the first place.

It is no laughing matter for any animal that has been allowed to get in this state.

Author: John Brookland

John Brookland has been passionate about animals from an early age and has always been more concerned about their individual health and well-being than any scientific or zoological interest. During his long and varied career in animal welfare in the U.K. and worldwide, he has unfortunately witnessed most of the horrors of animal cruelty there is to see and has gained extensive insight into animal welfare issues. On leaving school he trained as an RSPCA clinic assistant in London and later was manager of one of their veterinary hospitals and an animal centre. He was Chief Inspector and manager of the Bahamas Humane Society in Nassau and spent time in Trinidad advising on a humane stray dog control service, before becoming a deputy manager and animal health inspector at Heathrow's Animal Quarantine Centre. He then travelled the world for a conservation group investigating the capture and transport of wildlife for the pet trade and was an honorary consultant to the IUCN and CITES. He is now retired and still travelling the world with his partner to view wildlife and wild places and writing a blog and books on animals.