ROCKVILLE, Md. — The modern pet food and treat industry has grown and expanded to unprecedented levels, and although consumers have access to more information about the pet food they purchase than ever before, studies show that veterinary expertise is still an important factor in choosing the right diet.

Packaged Facts points to pet obesity rates to argue that veterinarians should “play a proactive role in guiding their customers to balanced choices,” the market research firm stated. In its report, “Veterinary Services in the U.S.: Competing for the Pet Care Customer, 2nd Edition,” most pet owners don’t recognize or acknowledge that their dog or cat is overweight.

Only 13% of dog owners and 19% of cat owners consider their pet to be overweight, according to a Packaged Facts survey. In comparison, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) notes in a 2018 survey that weight and obesity problems among pets affect 56% of dogs and 60% of cats in the US.

Among them, 36% of dogs and 26% of cats were considered overweight, with a body condition score (BCS) of 6 or 7, and 19% of dogs and 34% of cats were considered obese, with a BCS of 8 or 9. Based on this data, APOP estimates 50 million dogs and 56 million cats exceed healthy weight limits.

Packaged Facts suggests that veterinarians are missing an opportunity to provide expert knowledge, recognize patterns in pet health, and even add revenue for their businesses by not leveraging their knowledge of pet nutrition and health and educating pet owners accordingly.

"While dollar-wise pet food is small potatoes within the veterinary sector, it's essential for vets not to overlook the importance of pet food and pet feeding and treating patterns to animal health," says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts.

The market research company cited the 2018 American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Market for Veterinary Services Report, which claims pet food sales accounted for only 4% of total revenues among US companion animal-exclusive veterinary practices that year. The AVMA claims to represent more than 91,000 veterinarians across the country.

As the humanization of pets and the pet care industry continues, Packaged Facts predicts proactive veterinarians who are able to educate and direct consumers toward optimal diets for their pets will improve the health of their patients and drive revenue for themselves.

Keep up with the latest pet food trends on our Trends page.