New Research From The University of Liverpool and WALTHAM Reveals Overweight Dogs May Live Shorter Lives

WALTHAM-ON-THE-WOLDS and LIVERPOOL, England, January 3, 2019 /PRNewswire/ --

  • Study of over 50,000 dogs across 12 breeds shows link between a dog's weight and expected lifespan      
  • Research reinforces need for pets to keep a healthy bodyweight throughout their lives

New research from the University of Liverpool and Mars Petcare's WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition revealed overweight dogs are more likely to have shorter lives than those at ideal body weights. Results from the study showed the lifespan of overweight dogs was up to two and a half years shorter when compared to dogs with a healthy body weight[1]. The study was conducted retrospectively over two decades and published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

     (Logo: )

Using data provided by Banfield Pet Hospital, the study examined more than 50,000 dogs across 12 of the most popular dog breeds. The correlation between being overweight and reduced lifespan was seen in all breeds, although the magnitude of the reduction differed, ranging from between five months for male German Shepherds to two years and six months for male Yorkshire Terriers.

It is estimated that over a quarter of households (26%) in the UK and nearly half in the US (47.6%) own a dog[2],[3]. This research is important because pet owners may be unaware of the serious health implications of dogs carrying extra weight. Pet obesity is steadily on the rise, with latest figures estimating one in three dogs and cats in the US is overweight[4].

Although the study did not examine the reasons behind the extra weight, feeding habits are thought to play a role in pet obesity. According to a recent Better Cities For Pets survey[5], more than half (54%) of cat and dog owners always or often give their pet food if they beg for it, and nearly a quarter (22%) of cat and dog owners sometimes overfeed their pet to keep them happy.

Study co-author and Professor of Small Animal Medicine at the University of Liverpool Alex German said, "Owners are often unaware that their dog is overweight, and many may not realise the impact that it can have on health. What they may not know is that, if their beloved pet is too heavy, they are more likely to suffer from other problems such as joint disease, breathing issues, and certain types of cancer, as well as having a poorer quality of life. These health and wellbeing issues can significantly impact how long they live."

"For many owners, giving food, particularly tasty table scraps and tidbits, is the way we show affection for our pets. Being careful about what you feed your dog could go a long way to keeping them in good shape and enabling them to be around for many years to come."

Worryingly, it is estimated that only one in five pet owners measure how much food they are giving their pet, with four in five (87%) always or often simply estimating the amount of food they think their pet needs at each serving.

At Banfield Pet Hospital, we're passionate about sharing the data and insights gleaned from the eight million annual pet visits to our more than 1,000 hospitals - to advance not only the veterinary profession but also pet health," said Daniel Aja, DVM, Chief Medical Officer, Banfield Pet Hospital. "As the largest general veterinary practice in the world, we have the tools to enable studies like this one, as well as our own publications like the annual State of Pet Health and Veterinary Emerging Topics reports."

About the Study     

The University of Liverpool and WALTHAM study was a retrospective, observational cohort study, that leveraged demographic, geographic and clinical data from dogs that received care at BANFIELD® Pet Hospitals in North America between April 1994 and September 2015. Data was gathered from 50,787 dogs across 12 of the most popular US family breeds: Dachshund, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, American Cocker Spaniel, Beagle, Boxer, Chihuahua, Pit Bull Terrier, Pomeranian, Shih Tzu, and Yorkshire Terrier. For each breed, the lifespan of dogs whose owners reported them to be overweight and those in optimal body condition was compared.

As the largest general-veterinary practice in the world, Banfield has more than 1,000 hospitals across the United States and Puerto Rico comprised of veterinary teams who are committed to providing high-quality veterinary care for more than three million pets annually. The data extracted for this study included demographic (breed, sex, neuter status and date of birth) and geographic (latitude and longitude of the owner's postcode) variables, plus data collected during in-clinic visits (date of visit, bodyweight and if available body condition), and date of death. Pedigree status and date of birth are both owner-reported parameters and were not verified by veterinary staff.

About healthy weight management     

When it comes to healthy weight management prevention is better than a cure, and to prevent obesity, you need to spot it early. There are a few simple things you can do to make sure your dog maintains a healthy weight,1) speak to your vet about your dog's ideal body weight - they can advise you on feeding amounts as they change from pups through to old age, 2) ensure they get enough exercise - this will depend on their size and breed type, 3) skip the table scraps - not all human food is safe for pets and some can even be deadly and 4) weigh your dog regularly - even slight increases in weight can have a big impact on their health.

About the University of Liverpool     

Since 1881, The University of Liverpool has worked for the advancement of learning and ennoblement of life.  Associated with nine Nobel Laureates, the University of Liverpool is recognised for its high-quality teaching and research. Our research collaborations extend worldwide and address many of the grand challenges facing mankind today. The University of Liverpool is also home to the Royal Canin Weight Management Clinic. Established in 2005, the clinic is the first specialist weight loss clinic for pets anywhere in the world. 

About Mars Petcare
Mars Petcare is a diverse and growing business with 75,000 Associates across 50+ countries dedicated to one purpose: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS. With 75 years of experience, our portfolio of almost 50 brands serves the health and nutrition needs of the world's pets - including brands PEDIGREE®, WHISKAS®, ROYAL CANIN®, NUTRO™, GREENIES™, SHEBA®, CESAR®, IAMS™ and EUKANUBA™ as well as The WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition which has advanced research in the nutrition and health of pets for over 50 years. Mars Petcare is also a leading veterinary health provider through a network of over 2,000 pet hospitals including BANFIELD™, BLUEPEARL™, PET PARTNERS™, VCA™ and Linnaeus. We're also active in innovation and technology for pets, with WISDOM PANEL™ genetic health screening and DNA testing for dogs, the WHISTLE™ GPS dog tracker, and LEAP VENTURE STUDIO accelerator and COMPANION FUND™ programs that drive innovation and disruption in the pet care industry. As a family business and guided by our principles, we are privileged with the flexibility to fight for what we believe in - and we choose to fight for: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS. For more information about Mars Petcare, please visit


  1. German, A. Association between life span and body condition in neutered client‐owned dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine December 2018. Available here:
  2. PFMA Pet Population 2018. Available via: . Last accessed: 18 August 2018.
  3. APPA Pet Industry Market Size & Ownership Statistics. Available via: . Last accessed 19 October 2018.
  4. Banfield State of Pet Health report 2017. Available via: . Last accessed: 18 October 2018.
  5. Better Cities for Pets. Weight Management: Keeping our pets healthy survey 2018. Available via: Last accessed 18 August 2018.

To organise media interviews or more information please contact: 

Ishtar Schneider
Edelman London

SOURCE Mars Petcare

Back to news