New research from the University of Liverpool and Mars Petcare's WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition revealed overweight dogs are more likely to have shorter lives than those at ideal body weights. Results from the study showed the lifespan of overweight dogs was up to two and a half years shorter when compared to dogs with a healthy body weight.1 The study was conducted retrospectively over two decades and published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

Using data provided by Banfield Pet Hospital, the study examined more than 50,000 dogs across 12 of the most popular dog breeds. The correlation between being overweight and reduced lifespan was seen in all breeds, although the magnitude of the reduction differed, ranging from between five months for male German Shepherds to two years and six months for male Yorkshire Terriers.

It is estimated that over a quarter of households (26%) in the UK and nearly half in the US (47.6%) own a dog.2,3 This research is important because pet owners may be unaware of the serious health implications of dogs carrying extra weight. Pet obesity is steadily on the rise, with latest figures estimating one in three dogs and cats in the US is overweight.4

Although the study did not examine the reasons behind the extra weight, feeding habits are thought to play a role in pet obesity. According to a recent Better Cities For Pets survey,5 more than half (54%) of cat and dog owners always or often give their pet food if they beg for it, and nearly a quarter (22%) of cat and dog owners sometimes overfeed their pet to keep them happy.

Study co-author and Professor of Small Animal Medicine at the University of Liverpool Alex German said, "Owners are often unaware that their dog is overweight, and many may not realize the impact that it can have on health. What they may not know is that, if their beloved pet is too heavy, they are more likely to suffer from other problems such as joint disease, breathing issues, and certain types of cancer, as well as having a poorer quality of life. These health and wellbeing issues can significantly impact how long they live."

"For many owners, giving food, particularly tasty table scraps and tidbits, is the way we show affection for our pets. Being careful about what you feed your dog could go a long way to keeping them in good shape and enabling them to be around for many years to come."

Worryingly, it is estimated that only one in five pet owners measure how much food they are giving their pet, with four in five (87%) always or often simply estimating the amount of food they think their pet needs at each serving.

At Banfield Pet Hospital, we're passionate about sharing the data and insights gleaned from the eight million annual pet visits to our more than 1,000 hospitals - to advance not only the veterinary profession but also pet health," said Daniel Aja, DVM, Chief Medical Officer, Banfield Pet Hospital. "As the largest general veterinary practice in the world, we have the tools to enable studies like this one, as well as our own publications like the annual State of Pet Health and Veterinary Emerging Topics reports."

1. German, A. Association between life span and body condition in neutered client‐owned dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine December 2018. Available here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jvim.15367

2. PFMA Pet Population 2018. Available via: https://www.pfma.org.uk/pet-population-2018 . Last accessed: 18 August 2018.

3. APPA Pet Industry Market Size & Ownership Statistics. Available via: https://www.americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp . Last accessed 19 October 2018.

4. Banfield State of Pet Health report 2017. Available via: https://www.banfield.com/state-of-pet-health/obesity . Last accessed: 18 October 2018.

5. Better Cities for Pets. Weight Management: Keeping our pets healthy survey 2018. Available via: https://www.bettercitiesforpets.com/2018/02/22/survey-weighs-pet-obesity-crisis/. Last accessed 18 August 2018.