Single Americans are increasingly turning to pets for love and a sense of family, according to a survey by the American Veterinary Medical Association.  Although its still more common for a pet to be owned by a family, pet ownership by those who’ve never married and those recently separated or divorced was up 16.6% to 54.7% in 2011, compared to just 1.37% growth in pet ownership for families, to 66.4%. Bowen

Pet ownership is up especially among people who are divorced, widowed or separated. The group saw a 17.7% increase from 2006 to 2011. Pet ownership by single men was also on the rise — up 27.7% during that time period.

DECLINING VETERINARIAN VISITS

While more singles are adopting animals, one in four pet owners is neglecting their pet’s veterinary care. In 2011, 25.5% of pet owning households didn’t visit the veterinarian at all, according to the AVMA, which was an increase of 14.3% from 2006 to 2011. This reduction in care suggests that more animals are going without annual examinations and treatments to prevent common health problems.

“It’s interesting to see that more and more single people are discovering the comfort and satisfaction that owning a pet can offer,” said Dr. Douglas Aspros, president of the AVMA, in a statement. “Unfortunately, despite these positive trends, people aren’t bringing their pets into the veterinarian as often as they should.”

PET OBESITY RATES ON THE RISE

U.S. pet obesity rates continued to increase in 2012 with the number of overweight cats reaching an all-time high. The sixth annual National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found 52.5% of dogs and 58.3% of cats to be overweight or obese by their veterinarian. That equals approximately 80 million U.S. dogs and cats at increased risk for weight-related disorders such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, hypertension and many cancers.”Pet obesity remains the leading health threat to our nation’s pets.” states APOP’s founder and lead veterinarian for the survey Dr. Ernie Ward . “We continue to see an escalation in the number of overweight cats and an explosion in the number of type 2 diabetes cases.”

Veterinary nutritionist and internal medicine specialist at the University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine Dr. Joe Bartges cautions that many pet owners don’t recognize when their pet is overweight. “In this survey, approximately 45% of cat and dog owners assessed their pet as having a normal body weight when the veterinarian assessed the pet to be overweight.” Dr. Ward calls the phenomenon of incorrectly evaluating an overweight pet as normal “the fat gap.” “The disconnect between reality and what a pet parent thinks is obese makes having a conversation with their veterinarian more challenging. Many pet owners are shocked when their veterinarian informs them their pet needs to lose weight. They just don’t see it.”

Certain breeds showed greater risk for excess weight. Veterinary healthcare providers classified 58.9% of Labrador retrievers and 62.7% of golden retrievers surveyed as overweight or obese. Surgical specialist Dr. Steve Budsberg of the University of Georgia is particularly concerned about the development of weight-related musculoskeletal conditions. “Once again, our data shows that obesity is rampant and we are certainly setting up more and more dogs and cats for joint problems during their lives. This results in hundreds of millions of dollars in medical bills and countless surgical procedures for weight-related conditions.

[Source:  “U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook.”  American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). 14 Mar. 2013.  Web.  27 Mar. 2013; “Sixth Annual National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Survey,”  Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP).  13 Mar. 2013.  Web.  27 Mar. 2013.]

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