Short lifespans for pets can compel clients to act on obesity, researchers discover


Results found that life expectancy is one of the most important factors for pet owners to participate in their pet’s weight management

Mary Swift/

Mary Swift/

Researchers from the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) at the University of Guelph recently published the results of 2 surveys focusing on dogs and cats last year to see what information clients prefer when considering weight loss recommendations from their veterinarian in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. The surveys involved over 1000 participants living in Canada who were asked to rank various health issues that could result from obesity from most to least importance.

According to the results, from the cat owner, the impact of obesity on their pets life expectancy was found to be the most important factor to encourage the participants to work on weight management for obese felines for 32.6% of participants.1 The factors following life expectancy were cost of food (20.4%), future quality of life (20.38%), change in cost of pets food (18.9%), and future mobility (14.3%).2

“Findings suggest that cat owners consider the impact on life expectancy to be most important when considering whether to follow a veterinarian's recommendation for their cat to lose weight. When veterinary professionals are communicating about obesity in practice, there is the potential to increase owner engagement in weight management efforts for cats by emphasizing the obesity-related information owners prefer to receive,” researchers stated within the study.2

For dog parents, the most important weight-related concern was also life expectancy (28.6%). Participants also said developing arthritis (19.2%), future quality of life (18.9%), change in costs of food (18.9%), and future mobility (14.3%).3

The questions for the survey were designed by Lighthouse Studio and was provided in both English and French. Participants were randomly distributed 1 of 3 discrete choice method (DCM) studies. If a participant indicated ownership of at least 1 cat, they became eligible to be randomized into the study.2 They were then asked to complete a questionnaire of 3 sections, collecting demographic information, discrete choice exercise to determine what obesity-related content is important to the owner, and then a dichotomous question to learn more about the participants previous experience receiving a obesity diagnosis of their own.

The researchers also used social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram that included a link to the survey and a statement encouraging anyone reading to share the link. The teams also reached out to 36 private and public pet organizations such as humane societies, veterinary clinics and colleges, pet stores, pet-oriented social media influencers, and pet-related newsletters, clubs, and blogs to share the link. Out of the 26 that were asked to share, 15 participated in the distribution.2,3 The survey also gave participants the chance to win a $50 Amazon Gift card.

“Given the implications for pet health and well-being, client communication regarding obesity is a professional responsibility for veterinary professionals,” the canine obesity study said.3

The studies were funded on gifts from Nestle Purina PetCare Canada to OVC, but the company was not involved in the development of the survey, data management or analysis, interpretation, or writing of the manuscript. The researchers disclosed that they did assist with the distributions of the surveys.


  1. New study finds that concerns about shorter lifespans for pets can drive owner action on obesity. News release. University of Guelph. March 21, 2024. Accessed March 27, 2024.
  2. Sutherland KA, Coe JB, Catherine, Shepherd ML, Grant LE. Information about life expectancy related to obesity is most important to cat owners when deciding whether to act on a veterinarian’s weight loss recommendation. JAVMA. Published online March 13, 2024:1-10. doi:
  3. Davies AR, Sutherland KA, Groves CNH, Grant LE, Shepherd ML, Coe JB. Impact on life expectancy was the most important information to clients when considering whether to take action for an overweight or obese dog. JAVMA. Published online March 19, 2024:1-10. doi:
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