Overweight and Obese Pet Owners: Respondent and Pet Characteristics in the Rural Midwestern United States

Roschelle A. Heuberger, Jennifer A. Garner, Alison Corby, Kierstin DeWitt, Rebecca Vander Sluis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The obesity epidemic has impacted both people and pets in the rural Midwestern United States (MWUS). Tailoring health advice to the socio-demographic characteristics and dietary patterns of owners and their pets can help promote adherence to health behavior changes for owners and foster health improvements for both owners and pets. The authors completed this cross-sectional study in the rural MWUS with the objective of describing health-related characteristics of non-over-weight/obese versus overweight/obese [NOO vs. OO] cat and dog owners and their pets. The primary aim was to detect differences that could inform health recommendations. For both cat and dog owners, dietary and lifestyle profiles differed between those who were non-overweight/obese and those who were overweight/obese. NOO dog owners trended toward fewer health problems, took fewer medications (p < 0.02), took more supplements (p < 0.03), and ate less fast food (p < 0.03) and more fish (p < 0.001) than OO owners. Dogs owned by NOO owners had more owner-initiated activity (M ± SD: 44.6 ± 63.0 vs. 27.2 ± 26.4 min/d) and were on more supplements (p < 0.003). NOO cat owners were younger (p < 0.03), had fewer health problems (p < 0.04), took fewer medications (p < 0.04), engaged in more exercise (p < 0.02), and ate less fast food (p < 0.03) than OO cat owners. The only significant difference between cats of NOO vs. OO owners was their predominant gender: 57% vs. 74% female (p < 0.01). These findings have implications for marketing, education, and health care for both owners and pets. Further investigation of the relationship between pet ownership and health is warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-230
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 3 2016


  • diet
  • exercise
  • health
  • obesity
  • pet ownership


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