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Pet Obesity Issues on the Rise Post-Pandemic

More pets than ever before have joined their 'furever' homes during the last year.

Did you know that there was a huge 7.5 million Google searches for ‘new pet’ across 2020
Yet, the current climate has negatively impacted the health of our pets, as we have all become more sedentary due to lockdowns across Australia.

In fact, pre-pandemic statistics showed that over 50% of pets are overweight and 90% of pet parents with an overweight pet don’t realise that they are overweight...

To help combat the issue the experts at Hill’s Pet Nutrition Australia analysed over 4,000 pet obesity-related Google search terms to uncover the nation’s most frequently asked questions on the topic in order to work out exactly what is concerning pet parents right now. 

The research found a 24% rise in concern regarding pet obesity compared to the previous year, highlighting a need to tackle the knowledge gap amongst owners in support of optimal pet health.

The 7 most-searched-for questions are below and Professional Consulting Veterinarian, Jessica Mills BVSc (Hons I) has provided expert advice to answer these onsite.

  • Is my pet overweight?
  • How much should I feed my dog?
  • How much should I feed my cat?
  • Why is pet obesity a problem?
  • Is pet obesity getting worse?
  • Is there any difference in obesity between cats and dogs?
  • How can pet obesity be fixed?
"As well as recognising when a pet is overweight, it’s important to do something about it. Being overweight or obese is more than just a cosmetic problem for dogs and cats. Nor does it make them happier or cuter!"
Did you know that being overweight causes a state of chronic inflammation that can lead to the development of many preventable diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, and respiratory conditions, and can shorten a pet’s life expectancy by 2 years [2]"? said Dr Maureen Revington, Professional Vet Affairs Manager at Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

Pet obesity is sadly a common yet preventable issue. As such, our veterinary expert has shared top tips for pet parents to follow as we mark one year since the pandemic hit disrupting daily exercise and nutrition routine.

Top 10 tips to support your pets' healthy weight management

1. Know your starting point

A healthy weight can vary between breeds and species, and you need to know what’s ideal for your pet type. 

Typically, you should weigh your dog or cat in kilos and keep this figure in your pet’s health file as a clear starting point.

2. Calculate exact calories

You need to know how many calories your dog or cat requires in order to maintain a healthy balance; consider age, weight, activity level and breed type amongst other things. 

Feeding guides on food packages are just that, a guide. Your pet’s feeding amount may need to be adjusted to support their individual requirements. 

The team at your local veterinary clinic will be able to help determine your pet's ideal body weight and energy requirements.

3. Provide a good quality diet

A nutritious diet can make a huge difference in your pet’s lifelong health and happiness. Nutrition not only impacts your pets’ weight, but also contributes to healthy digestion, strong bones and a beautiful coat. Precisely balanced nutrition is key to any pet’s weight management journey.

4. Make sure you measure meals

Many pet owner’s simply ‘guestimate’ when it comes to feeding both dogs and cats the right amount. Weighing out your pet’s food is the most accurate way to measure their food, but using the measuring cup provided by the manufacturer can also keep you on the right track. The feeding guide on the pack will provide you with a good starting point. 

Alternatively, your veterinary health care team or manufacturer's helpline can help you determine the ideal amount to be feeding your pet.

Free Feeding your cat or dog can result in an ‘all-day buffet’ with owners constantly keeping the pet bowl full, and whilst you may think you’re keeping your pet happy, you may be contributing to those extra kilos through too much readily available kibble.

5. Try to switch out ‘treats

Don’t feed table scraps to your pet, especially if they are trying to lose weight. It might seem like a little ‘here and there’ but for some pets, it can be the equivalent of a whole meal. In human calorie terms, 28 g of cheddar cheese is the equivalent of 1.5 burgers for your 9 kg dog or 3.5 burgers for your 4.5 kg cat!

Instead, get into the habit of rewarding good behaviour with fun, not with food. Pay your pet extra attention and affection with more cuddles, walks or playtime.

6. Use food as a way to nourish body and mind...

Many pets will overeat when they are bored. Puzzle feeders or treat balls can be used to help keep your pet mentally active and slow down their eating habits by making them work for their food.

7. Prioritise an exercise plan

For dogs, look at simple ways to increase their exercise. Maybe it’s possible to add a couple of extra walks a week or increase the length of your daily walk. 

Or maybe you can change the route so they are exercising more intensely - going up hills or stairs are great to burn calories. Another great option is to find games they like such as fetch so that you both enjoy these daily exercise sessions.

For cats, simple games such as “hunting” the light can encourage them to move more. Simply shine a torch on the floor and walls and the natural movement will encourage your pet to chase it. For cats that love their food, puzzle feeders and dividing the meal around the house can encourage more movement whilst they eat - in fact you can actually teach your cat to hunt for their food by hiding it around the house.

8. Make it a family affair...

Ensure that everyone involved in your pet’s care is aware of any changes to diet, exercise or health regime. That way, it will be a lot easier for your pet to keep to their required plan and you will be more likely to stay on track as everyone can join together, to encourage a healthier lifestyle.

9. Know what’s normal

It is important to have a base understanding of what is normal when it comes to the weight and size of your pet, just like you would do with your own body. Make sure you are regularly performing health checks and you know signs to look out for. Unexpected or sudden weight loss or weight gain could be an indicator of underlying disease and a good reason to check in with your vet.

10. Take it slowly

At the end of the day, healthy weight management for your cat or dog is a lifestyle change. Remember there is no quick fix and that nothing happens overnight. But by looking at the diet and exercise regime of your pets, you can help keep them healthy and happy for many years to come.

Full study findings on consumer trends study around pet obesity is available here:


  1. Kealy RD, Lawler DF, et. al.  Effects of Diet Restriction on Life Span and Age-Related Changes in Dogs.  J Am Vet Med Assoc 2002; 220:1315 – 1320.

  2. Teng KT et al. Strong associations of 9-point body condition scoring with survival and life span in cats. J Feline Med Surg 2018;1-9. 

MEDIA RELEASE, 11th May 2021

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