British cat and labrador retriever sitting at the dining table


Welfare and Behaviour

How data is helping us tackle pet obesity

Pet obesity data can paint a concerning picture, as the figures show that the number of overweight pets is still on the rise. But data can also help researchers and veterinarians find new ways to fight and prevent the disease.

Our researchers, together with veterinarians and data scientists across Mars Petcare, are using data to better understand how widespread and dangerous pet obesity is. They are also using data insights to build solutions that can help veterinary teams and owners prevent such a serious health issue. 

Data can help us better understand how serious pet obesity is

Our research shows obesity can reduce dogs’ life expectancy by as much as two and a half years, depending on the breed.

Mars Petcare’s Global Data and Analytics team worked with Banfield Pet Hospital® veterinarians and used natural language processing to interpret medical records and identify overweight adult dogs

They found that around 1 in 2 adult dogs seen at Banfield Pet Hospital in 2018 were overweight. Of the overweight dogs, fewer than 1 in 10 lost at least 10% of their body weight after being identified as overweight, no matter the dogs’ age. These findings also showed that maintaining a pet's healthy body weight is particularly difficult: around 40% of these successful dogs regained weight and the overweight status within 12 months.

Data insights can help us build solutions

By helping us build a more complete picture of the causes of pet obesity, data is also helping us find ways to prevent this health issue. 

Thanks to our veterinary hospitals and our world-leading dog DNA testing service, Wisdom Panel, we are combining genetic information with medical records to investigate the inherited factors that contribute to many disorders including pet obesity.

Our pet health tracker, Whistle™ FIT, gives pet owners custom nutrition recommendations based on the dog’s age, breed, weight, activity levels and calories burned.

Our researchers analysed more than 20 million body weight measures at different ages from 4 million dogs to develop puppy growth charts that can help puppies grow at a healthy rate.

"By allowing veterinarians and owners to benchmark a dog’s growth as it matures, it can make it easier to spot early signs of health issues and intervene faster if the animal’s weight starts to creep up or not keep up. It is also a great example of how data and science can help us build a greater understanding of what healthy growth looks like and drive solutions by helping educate owners on what different dogs’ ideal weight will be when they reach adulthood", said Dr. Darren Logan, Head of Research at the Waltham Petcare Science Institute. 

Learn more about our partnerships and research to help veterinary teams and owners tackle pet obesity.