Image from: Ann Arbor Animal Hospital

Dr. Kelly Swanson, a professor of animal and nutritional sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign just published an article on the topic of pet obesity in the Journal of Animal Science. His research is designed to explore how foods alter gene expression in our pets, a field called nutrigenomics. He thinks that domestication (reducing the need for animals to hunt or compete for food) may contribute to the rise in pet obesity. Since domesticated animals also spend less time and energy trying to reproduce, thanks to spaying and neutering, they do not require as much energy in their diets. The excess energy they consume, therefore, is converted into fat.

Being overweight is not just a problem for humans. Reportedly over 50% of dogs and cats are overweight or obese in the United States. Similar to humans, overweight and obesity in pets causes chronic diseases that can decrease a pet’s lifetime. It also makes it more difficult for them to fit through the pet door.

pedigree diet


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Press Release

de Godoy MRC, Swanson KS. Nutrigenomics: Using gene expression and molecular biology data to understand pet obesity. Journal of Animal Science. Epub Ahead of Print. 

Image of obese cat from Ann Arbor Animal Hospital


  1. #1 Lyle
    April 12, 2013

    I the pet obesity problem demonstrates that to much food is an environment no animal evolved to live in, until 100 or so years ago food scarcity was the problem. Noting my sister and her daughters (the daugher is a vet) it appears that pets that were at one time on the street demonstrate a willingness to eat anything they can find, because they recall when food was scarce,and figure get it while the getting is good. There was an interesting post by someone who grew up on a farm who observed that some animals will stop eating while others will continue to eat (called easy and hard feeders).
    However this and the fact that my niece says that even lizards can have the problem shows the problem is deep in the vertebrate genome.

  2. #2 Eli
    April 14, 2013

    This is weird, my dogs are lean.
    Feed them meat at any amount – they will be healthy and lean.
    I have a large family many many leftovers, I pick the ones that are appropriate for dogs i.e. meat, chicken, cheese etc… at some point they refuse to eat, it is just too much, yet they never fatten and always healthy.