U.S. Pet Obesity: The Total Number of Pounds our Dogs are Overweight

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We recently wrote about the 2014 Association for Pet Obesity Prevention survey results, which were very disappointing. According to this year’s survey, the number of obese dogs has risen the past two years and the total number of overweight or obese dogs in the US is almost 44 million. I thought it would be interesting to use the APOP survey results and estimate how many pounds of pet fat that would translate to, and then determine how many days of walking would be required to burn those extra pounds away. You are not going to believe what these computations reveal.

 

dog on scale

Fat Dogs – How Much are we Really Overfeeding?

Given that there are almost 44 million overweight dogs in the US, there are lots of extra pounds for those pooches to lose. In order to estimate how many pounds, I needed to start with some key assumptions. These are displayed in the table below (along with the other key calculations).

 

I started the analysis by assuming that the average weight for all of the dogs in the US was 25 lbs. Next, I broke out the obese dogs from the overweight dogs (according to the APOP survey) and made assumptions for, on average, how overweight a dog in each of these two groups would be. For the overweight category, I assumed 15% overweight and for the obese category, I assumed 35% overweight. As a reality check, this means that the average overweight dog is 4 lbs. overweight (15% of 25 lbs.) and the average obese dog is 9 lbs. overweight (35% of 25 lbs.). Seems reasonable if not on the low side.

 

With this information, I can now calculate the aggregate amount of weight that dogs in the US are carrying due to them being overweight. These numbers, shown in the in the table below, are in millions of pounds. The bottomline? Dogs in the US are 238 million pounds overweight.

 

Overweight Dogs: How much overweight are the dogs in the US?

Values in % or millions
Weight Classification No. of Dogs Avg. % Overweight Total Lbs. Overweight Total Kcals to Lose this Weight Days Walking a 25 lb. Dog to Burn kcals
Overweight 29.2 15% 110 383,753 381
Obese 14.7 35% 128 448,987 445
Total 43.9 22% 238 832,740 826
Addendum:
Total Cups of dog food over fed 2,776
Total lbs. overfed 694
Key Assumptions
Average Dog Size (lbs.) 25
Kcals burned for 1 hour of brisk walking 42
Avg. kcals per cup dog food 300
Avg. cups per lb. of dog food 4

 

 

How Many Calories are needed for Fat Dogs to Lose the Extra Weight?

Now that we know how much flab must be lost, we can determine the calorie deficit needed to get our fat pets back to a healthy weight. In order to lose 238 million pounds, a total calorie deficit of almost 833 million kcals is needed. Wow. That’s a lot of smaller portions and a lot of exercise.

 

Another way to look at this is to estimate how many days of walking would be needed to burn off those 833 million calories. To do this, I determined that 25 lb. dog would burn about 42 kcals on an hour walk (at around 3 mph). Dividing the 833 million by 42 and then again by 24 (for 24 hours in a day), means that in order for the 44 million overweight or obese dogs in the US to lose their extra weight, they would have to walk in aggregate, for a total of 826 million days!

 

Regarding portions, making some assumptions about the average calories in dog food, I estimate that the US is overfeeding their dogs by 694 million pounds of dog food each year. Oh my goodness.

 

The purpose of these calculations is to put the pet obesity problem into perspective and to demonstrate the severity of the pet obesity problem that is harming our pets and costing pet owners billions of dollars in unneeded food and medical costs. Of all of the above figures, the one that stands out to me is the 694 million pounds of dog food that is being overfed. Having spent some time as a rescue volunteer, and seeing all of those poor dogs who are emaciated from neglect, I can’t help but think that those 694 million pounds of over poured food would be better utilized in the form of donations to local shelters and rescues- where the animals really need those calories to survive.

 

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29 Comments

  1. 238 million pounds? imagine a pile of 238 million pounds of potatoes….or wait that’s not a pile, that’s a mountain …
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog SHOP TILL YOU DROP&FFHTMy Profile

  2. Mom saw a really fat dog when she picked up Bailie at daycare the other day. The lady was picking up her dog and actually gave the poor massively overweight dog a treat! Mom had nothing to say because she was so mad about it. It is so awful to see dogs who look like they might explode and people carrying on as though nothing is wrong.
    Emma recently posted…Another ORT (Odor Recognition Test)My Profile

  3. Hi Y’all!

    Oh that is scary!

    Y’all come on by,
    Hawk aka BrownDog
    Hawk aka BrownDog recently posted…U is for Undate and It Doesn’t Mean What You ThinkMy Profile

  4. I think a large part of the problem is that the feeding quantities recommended on the dog food bags are too much for most dogs. Of our three dogs, only Freighter got the recommended amount but we have also cut him back as he has reached maturity. I had a conversation recently with someone starting a new RX food and suggested that the quantity on the bag would be way too much for her dog. The vet disagreed and wanted her to feed the bag recommendation. She decided not to and the dog is maintaining weight which is what she wants. Now why in the world would any vet suggest over feeding a new food rather than a feed and see approach?
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…Against The WindMy Profile

    • I don’t think vets are educated enough about nutrition in vet school. I”m starting to see that change as obesity has become such an issue, but you are right, I think there are very few dogs who can maintain a healthy weight be eating those recommended servings.
      mkob recently posted…U.S. Pet Obesity: The Total Number of Pounds our Dogs are OverweightMy Profile

    • That’s crazy that the vet would recommend feeding more! When I first got my cat, I’d never had a cat before, so I went with the recommended feeding and he blew up from 8-pounds when I got him to 15-pounds (with the help of steroids that our old vet seemed to think were the best way to treat everything) in 6 months. When we moved and our new vet said he needed to lose weight, she told us that most of the recommended servings are based on the most active pets of those weights (and that a lot of the pets that are at those weights are already overweight and aren’t actually supposed to be in that weight range to begin with), so most people will overfeed if they follow those guidelines. There are so many other things to consider when deciding how much to feed your pets–Barley needs such a variety of treats of differing values to keep her focused when we’re dealing with reactions that she’d look like an elephant if we were anywhere near the recommended feeding, even with how active she is. It’s so nice to have SlimDoggy to help educate people about keeping their pets fit.
      Beth recently posted…Facing Our FearsMy Profile

  5. So sad that dog owners think it shows their dog love to spoil them with treats. We are launching our Pet obesity survey today with the OAVT to try to combat this and bring awareness.

  6. WOW these numbers are SHOCKING to say the least. It is so sad pets are also suffering from the obesity epidemic. It is hard work to get them slim and stay trim, but it is absolutely worth it for their health – and it gives their humans a few more opportunities to burn calories, too. Loving your pet doesn’t just mean kisses and treats – it means keeping them HEALTHY. Thank you so much for sharing this important information!
    Daisy The French Bulldog recently posted…Putting the Paws in the WaterMy Profile

  7. Yikes! That’s a lot of extra poundage AND wasted food poured. You sure are right, it would be better served as extra food for shelter pets.
    Diane recently posted…Working Out Agility KinksMy Profile

  8. My jaw dropped to the floor — and I’m still having trouble picking it back up.

    Luckily, our vet bases how much food my girls should eat by their exercise levels and body condition. Forget about those charts on the bag. And no more than 10% of their total kcals should be treats.
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky’s Mom recently posted…Captions and Other ThingsMy Profile

  9. I am not at all surprised. Such a large percent of the population doesn’t bother to eat healthy or exercise so why would they monitor food/treats and exercise their dogs?
    Our vet is awesome! They have a giant chart on the wall showing both from the top and from the sides – views of dogs and cats in various stages of bad to healthy weights and what it should look like.
    You should be able to see your dog’s waist from top and from the side – generally I think this is a pretty good rule for most breeds.
    For us, we exercise our pups a ton! And they are really good at monitoring their own food intake so we have it pretty easy. But like last summer where we went out of town to a family bbq, they ended up being given a bunch of human food (junk food) they never get people food at our house…due to that we gave them a small dinner because they had pigged out all day.
    DZ Dogs recently posted…Silly PuppyMy Profile

  10. Wow! That’s a lot! Yikes.
    Lauren Miller (ZoePhee) recently posted…Exploring New Trails!My Profile

  11. I cringe at my own sister in NY who feeds her dogs any and everything – they are Mastifs so she thinks since their a “large” breed dog that it’s acceptable. She’s already lost one, and still doesn’t get it. Yep – she’s one that tells me Harley needs more meat on his bones! Oh My Doodle!

  12. I love your point at the end…if people just donated the unneeded food they buy for their own overweight pets, so many hungry dogs in shelters would be helped. And the people would still save money in the long run…in medical bills.
    It’s really disheartening. Of course, it’s easier to just give your dog some extra food or treats, than to actually take them for a walk. I’m sure a good majority of people with overweight dogs are overweight themselves.
    Jan K recently posted…The Importance of Annual Visits to Your VeterinarianMy Profile

  13. Mr. N was trying to get this overweight pug to play chase the other day and I was freaking out because the pug was wheezing so badly. He was trying to catch Mr. N and I was afraid the pug was going to have a coronary attack or something and keel over.

  14. WOW! I wonder what the cost of this is. Not just in health care but how much more are people paying for food? It took me a good while to get Sampson and Delilah’s weight down and they were well over 9 pounds overweight, but I did it with food and exercise, just like I would for myself.
    Jodi recently posted…Follow-Up Friday – April 24, 2015My Profile

  15. very interesting and wow is all I can say
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Channel Blinds With Some Shucking And Jiving~FitDog FridayMy Profile

  16. My former in-laws equated food with love. Trying to keep them from feeding my dogs people food was so difficult. I could not wait for them to go home. And yes, they are all obese, why do you ask?
    jan recently posted…Why babies have big eyesMy Profile

  17. Holy cow, those numbers are really scary and totally GROSS at the same time. How could anyone not see that their dogs are overweight or downright FAT? I just don’t get it.
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…Stimulating Walks For A Fit & Excited Pup!My Profile

  18. Those extra millions of lbs of dog food also represent a big carbon footprint, from raising the animals who will become the food, to processing the food, and shipping it. Of course, if shelter dogs can really use that much extra food, then that’s the best vision for it… Oh my.
    KB recently posted…Never a Dull DayMy Profile

  19. I’d have to admit that I’m one of those pet owners who over feeds their doggies. All my dogs, except maybe new youngest are all overweight (at least according to the vet). That’s made me more conscious and giving them less meals.
    Marj S recently posted…Krill Oil vs. Fish Oil: Which is Better?My Profile

    • It’s all up to you – cut back little by little on their food – they will be happier and healthier for it!
      mkob recently posted…Dogs and Bees and WaspsMy Profile

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