2.7 Million Pet Owners Are Told Their Pets Are Overweight In The Last Year

  • 05/02/2020

New research from Direct Line Pet Insurance reveals pet obesity is on the rise across the UK.

In the last 12 months, 1.7 million dog owners and one million cat owners have
been told by a vet their pets are overweight
Vets suggest that the top misconceptions held by pet owners about the
weight of their pets are that overfeeding or giving treats is a way of showing
love to pets (54 per cent)
Vets report having to seek medical treatment for injuries caused by lifting
heavy animals

New research from Direct Line Pet Insurance​
1 ​reveals​ pet obesity is on the rise across the
UK. In the last 12 months alone, 2.7 million pet owners have been told their dogs (1.7
million) or cats (1 million) are overweight. This is one in eight (12 per cent) dog owners, a
rise on the eight per cent who were told their dogs were overweight over the two years
previously, highlighting it is a growing issue.

Research conducted amongst vets​2​, in the last year, reveals that the vast majority (83 per
cent) are seeing an increase in the proportion of overweight pets being brought into
their practice for treatment. Vets estimate that they are treating 49 per cent 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 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 (two 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 (54 per cent) of vets are regularly concerned about injuring
themselves when treating heavier animals. Nearly two thirds of vets who have sustained
an injury when treating an overweight animal have had to see the doctor (63 per cent)
and two fifths (41 per cent) have needed to go to hospital. The rise in obesity has also
meant that veterinary practices are needing to invest in additional lifting equipment,
according to 42 per cent of those surveyed.

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 pay attention to their warning, as
addressing the problem quickly will reduce risk of future health problems such as
diabetes. Measuring out food can help 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 good.”


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 per
cent), that vets are being overly cautious when it comes to pets’ weights (50 per cent)
and that you can feed your pet more as long as it’s high quality food (47 per cent). Vets
say almost a third (30 per cent) of owners believe that obesity isn’t a serious issue in
animals, while 16 per cent of owners are also thought to not believe that animals are able
to become medically obese.

Breed analysis

Pug owners are most likely to be told they have an overweight pet, with 75 per cent
informed that their pet is too heavy by a vet in the last three years. This was closely
followed by Boxer owners, of which nearly 67 per cent have been told their dog is
overweight and Golden Retrievers (45 per cent)

Number of overweight dogs broken down by breed

Dog Breed Catergory Proporion of
owners with
overweight dogs
Number of
Pug 75% 305,226
Boxer 67% 319,767
Goldon Retriever 45% 339,904
Spaniel Breeds (Cocker,
Springer, Cavalier King Charles
40% 600, 969
Staffordshire Bull terrier 40% 447,289
Labrador 36% 784,812
Poodle or Poodle-cross
(Labradoodle, Cockapoo,
31% 155,530
Other Terrier (Jack Russell,
West Highland, Yorkshire,
Border etc.)
25% 287,442


Border Collie 23% 680,957

Source: Direct Line Pet Insurance 2019

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