Pet Obesity & Weight Loss Australia

We wanted to explore the current extent of pet obesity and related issues in both dogs and cats across Australia. We answer the nation’s most commonly asked questions and provide expert tips from our veterinarian to help combat pet weight management issues. Read our findings from our bespoke trend study below.

Pet parents, both new and experienced, share lots in common, particularly when it comes to ensuring our four-legged friends get the health support they need. At Hill’s Pet Nutrition Australia, we know that getting the right information surrounding optimal health for your pets can often cause confusion and angst - especially for those navigating the world as a new pet parent for the first time. 

Our recent research revealed that Australians had shown a surge of interest in bringing a pet companion into their lives through the first half of 2020. In fact, search interest around pet adoption and fostering rates had risen by 43% across 2020 (January 2020 - December 2020) when compared to the same time the previous year (YoY), with a huge 7.5 million searches. As more pets join homes across our nation than ever before, and with interest rate remaining high in 2021, we believe now is the perfect time to gain the insight and knowledge needed to maintain your pet’s health. 

Pet obesity and weight management is an area that is often overlooked in regard to pet health, yet is key to supporting overall wellbeing for your cat or your dog. *In fact, 90% of pet parents with an overweight pet don’t realise that they are overweight. Whether you are a pet parent pro, or if it is your first time owning a furry friend, there’s some key things you need to know.

Many of us turn to the internet for information to help provide direction and actionable advice in this area. With that in mind, we performed a **study into Australian search behaviour, utilising Google search volumes with analysis of over 4000 keyword search terms to understand the extent of new pet parent concerns when it comes to dog and cat weight management. Read on to find out the extent of the pet obesity epidemic and what you can do to support your best friend in their health journey.

Pet obesity in general is on the rise

***Hill’s Pet Nutrition recently surveyed pet parents across the US and found that one third (33%) of pet parents with an overweight pet say that their pet became overweight during the pandemic.  Similar trends may be true across Australia, as more Australians than ever before are seeking information to support their pet’s health, weight journey and obesity issues. Our consumer trends data shows that there has been a clear rise in overall search volume related to pet obesity across Australia, with over 68K searches made in 2020 - a significant 14.68% rise YoY. 

Home innovation required to ensure pets get exercise they need

****A 2019 study found that “18% of pet parents find exercising their pets regularly a challenge,” a significant statistic pre the COVID-19 pandemic. April 2020 saw an all-time high with a 47.36% YoY increase in people looking for pet exercise information, over 57K searches throughout the year and an overall increase of 28.37% YoY. This trend is perhaps reflective of the recent and current climate; more people are spending time at home with their pets and this, coupled with ever changing restrictions has resulted in the need for home innovation when it comes to exercising our pets. 

A clear rise in both cat and dog pet parents seeking support

Our data shows that there was a 20.35% YoY rise surrounding cat obesity and this trend has risen month-on-month throughout the last year. Exercising a cat is often not straightforward and if yours is a house cat, then that can be even more challenging. Yet with some alternative thinking and a little bit of effort, there are ways to make exercise fun for all cats. 

National search interest was at the highest for dog obesity in May with a 29.02% YoY increase. There were over 34K associated searches across 2020, a YoY increase of 12.09%. This trend follows a similar rise with more and more dog owners concerned about their dogs’ weight and is again, indicative of the global climate.

All data analysed shows intent and concern is clearly rising, totaling nearly 200,000 related searches surrounding the topic, as we find ourselves amidst of a pet obesity epidemic.

***Ironically, too many treats in the form of love could be a key reason for this rise, as more than half of pet parents (53%) say they've been giving their pets treats for no reason. 

Vet Comment & FAQs

picture of vet jessica
Dr Jessica Mills BVSc (Hons I)

Professional Consulting Veterinarian 

Jessica gratuated as a veterinarian from the University of Sydney in 1999. She spent 10 years working in small and mixed animal practice in Australia and the UK before moving into an industry role in 2009. She enjoys utlising her veterinary expertise to help educate in the importance of nutrition as a vital part of ensuring a pet's optimal health.

We know there is a large variety of advice online which can result in a lot of confusion for pet parents. We always recommend checking specific requirements with your veterinarian for a tailored weight management approach specific to your dog or cat’s needs. 

Our Hill’s Pet Nutrition veterinary expert helps to answer the nation’s biggest queries and offers tips and advice for you to follow, to ensure your furry friends have a long and healthy life.

Take a moment to ‘paws’ and consider how a healthy weight management routine will support your cat or dog now and into the future. 

Our study revealed the most commonly asked questions surrounding pet obesity, pet weight loss and weight management and exercise, highlighting what’s specifically troubling the nation. 


The 7 most searched for questions surrounding pet obesity awareness

Is my pet overweight? 

Whilst pets are reaping the benefits of having their humans around more often, with extra pats and cuddles, it has also meant extra treats and more food than normal, throughout the day.

To determine whether your dog or cat is overweight there are a few key things to consider. Most importantly, you should be able to feel your pet’s ribs through their fur and your cat or dog should never have a sagging tummy. Body Fat Index (BFI) is also a key indicator of whether your pet is overweight or underweight and an ideal score is 20 for both cats and for dogs. If any of these signs suggest your pet is overweight then it’s important to seek help from your vet in practice.

How much should I feed my dog?

Your dog will need a different feeding plan and food at various stages of their life, with puppies needing around 3-4 feedings a day, reaching up to two half portions of food in adulthood. Yet it’s important to consider current weight, breed and size and intensity of activity levels as well as age of your dog. Your vet will be able to support you with specifics. 

How much should I feed my cat? 

When determining how much to feed your cat you should refer to the feeding guide on the pet food label. Note, this is only a guide; there are many other factors to be taken into consideration. Your cat’s lifestyle, age, weight and whether you choose to feed a combination of wet or dry food all need to be considered. You may want to explore different feeding methods and again, your vet will be able to help you with a feeding plan that supports a healthy lifestyle for your cat. 

Why is pet obesity a problem?

“Pet obesity has been a problem for many years with the percentage of overweight pets increasing year on year. However, it has come into the spotlight over the last year for a number of reasons. Firstly, many people acquired pets for companionship, often for the first time. Pet owners were also spending more time at home with their pets. The benefit of this is pet owners are more likely to notice subtle changes in behaviour that may indicate an underlying issue, such as being slower to rise or jump. They are also more likely to seek information or advice on how to keep their pets healthy. 

The flipside is that pet owners will often use food and treats as a way of showing their love and affection for their pets. And with more time spent at home with them, there is more opportunity to overfeed them or provide treats or table scraps; all common reasons that lead to our pets becoming overweight. ***According to veterinarians, more than 71% of pet professionals say the pandemic has impacted the way pets eat.”

Is pet obesity getting worse?

“Pet obesity is one of the leading nutritional problems facing the pet population and the statistics show that the percentage of overweight pets is increasing.

Part of the problem is that there is a proliferation of pet food brands and feeding trends, as well as a vast number of different sources of information on feeding your pet available on the internet. Information overload can make it hard for pet owners to determine what is credible information based on facts and research.

As a population our perception of what a normal, healthy body weight for a pet should be has shifted. The abundance of overweight pets in the general population and media means that we often mistake the more “cuddly” shape of an overweight pet to be the ideal. In fact, *90% of pet parents with an overweight pet don’t realise that they are overweight”.

**Pet parents with overweight pets (31% with overweight dogs and 24% with overweight cats) feel it's harder to help their pet lose weight compared to before Covid-19, and 49% of veterinarians agree it's harder for pet parents to keep their pets at a healthy weight during the pandemic than before.

Is there any difference in obesity between cats and dogs?

“The main difference is that for cats (and small dogs), a relatively small weight gain can be significant due to their small body size - for example a cat can be considered obese, with all the health risks that come along with this, and only be carrying an extra kilo of weight.

The other difference for cats is that exercising them is not as easy or intuitive as it is for dogs- most cats don’t want to go for a walk. However, by thinking outside the box, it is possible to increase their exercise by getting them to chase a light source along the walls or “hunt” for their meal around the house”.

How can pet obesity be fixed?

“Managing pet weight issues still comes back down to the basic principles of making sure they expend more energy than they consume. Pay attention to the diet fed, ensuring it is aimed at the pet’s age and lifestyle and that they are receiving the correct amount of food. Be aware of ‘treating’ behaviour, as this is the most common way that excess calories slip into a diet and don’t forget to have an exercise routine. 

I have found that the best success comes from pet owners partnering with their local veterinary healthcare team as they can determine the ideal target weight for the pet, and tailor a diet and exercise plan that will suit both the pet’s needs and the owner’s lifestyle.”


Nationally studies understate the issue of pet obesity across Australia.


“Australian statistics likely understate the extent of the issue in this country, as a prevalence study has not been undertaken for around 15 years. *****The latest statistics from the US suggest that 56% of dogs and 60% of cats are overweight or obese and discussions with local colleagues suggest that the Australian figures are fairly similar.

I think the trend of more people searching for information on pet obesity and exercise is not surprising. It reflects the fact that pet owners are spending more time with their pets and want credible information sources on how to keep their pets fit and healthy.”

Remember, we are not always the best judge of our own pet’s weight.

“Various studies have shown that obesity in our pets can increase the risk of many serious health conditions such as arthritis, heart disease and diabetes. It can also shorten their overall lifespan. We all want our pets to live long and healthy lives and ensuring that they maintain a healthy body weight is one important way to help achieve this. A simple step is to start with better nutrition and becoming more aware of your feeding habits and the impact it can have your pet's life.

We are not always the best judge of our own pet’s weight so I would encourage all pet owners to check in with their local veterinary healthcare team. They can determine whether the pet is at their ideal bodyweight or, if they are carrying a few extra kilos, help develop a weight loss plan in conjunction with the pet owner. Losing that excess weight helps pets live their best life”.


Top Tips to support your pets healthy weight management

cat and dog standing


We know pet obesity is a key issue right now and so we’ve pulled together top tips from our experts to help support your pets weight loss journey. Together we can combat the challenges surrounding pet obesity and ensure our furry friends get the love and support they need to thrive.

  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 manufacturers 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.


  11. Here to help with your pets

    We all love our dogs and cats and try our best to make their daily lives happy and healthy. But if you’re a new pet parent, it can be hard to know how to look after your beloved friend the right way. At Hill's Pet Nutrition Australia, we are committed to ending pet obesity, so all pets can live long, healthy lives with their beloved families.

    We’ve put together further tips and advice from our pet experts including more resources and education on pet weight management, dog obesity, cat obesity and exercise.



  1. *2014 Pet Obesity Study. Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.

  2. ***November 2020 online survey surrounding pet obesity conducted for Hill's Pet Nutrition USA by Kelton Global, among 1,021 U.S. dog and cat owners and 257 veterinarians. Statistics refer to USA yet may be indicative of current national trends across Australia.

  3. ****2019 Pets in Australia: A national survey of pets and people. Animal Medicines Australia.

  4. ****2018 Pet Obesity Study. Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.


**Data was sourced from Google Keyword Planner to perform own bespoke research based on over 4000 keyword terms and 7.6 million Google searches to identify changes in search behaviour around pet obesity due to current climate. Hill’s Pet Nutrition Australia’s study identified search volumes around pet adoption, pet obesity, pet weight management, pet exercise as well as dog and cat terms to highlight current behaviours and key questions surrounding topic area. 

The study collated searches from January 2019 – December 2020 to provide a YoY comparison. December 2020 was the latest month of data available and all data is correct and representative at time of analysis. The data relates only to search term volume, which may not correlate to actual thoughts of the nation. We can, however, draw the conclusion that the rise in search terms may be indicative of intent.