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Highlights from the PDSA's Animal Welfare Report 2021

by Lauren Samet

The PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report (PAW Report) is an annual publication from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA). Findings are based upon their yearly survey carried out alongside YouGov, which aims to gain an understanding of the nation’s pet wellbeing and welfare.

The latest report is based upon data collected in May 2021, using a sample of 4,579 dog, cat, and rabbit owners over 18 years of age and living in the UK. The annual PDSA PAW Report has been established since 2011, these reports can all be viewed online here

Following the unprecedented events of 2020, the 2021 PAW Report captures data from UK pet owners as Covid-19 restrictions began to lift and the national vaccination programme was in progress. This survey focused on welfare areas that the 2020 Report suggested would be particularly impacted by the pandemic: pet population, pet acquisition, behaviour, obesity, and preventive healthcare. Here are some of the key findings, which pet owners should be aware of.


UK Pet Dog Wellbeing (based on 1950 dog owners surveyed)


UK Pet Cat Wellbeing (based on 2016 cat owners surveyed)


UK Pet Rabbit Wellbeing (based on 613 rabbit owners surveyed)


Pet Behaviour

Many of the findings related to changes in dog and cat behaviour appear to be associated with them experiencing more stress due to a change in their routines during lockdown, or seemingly getting used to those changes, and then not coping with a return to a form of ‘normality’.  For example, in dogs, this may be related to stress stemming from less space and time to themselves during lockdown. At the other end of the spectrum, some pets are getting used to continuous company at home and then struggle again when left alone as lockdown restrictions lift. Equally, lack of socialisation with other animals and different people may contribute to an increase in worrying when meeting and greeting other animals and people after lockdown.

If you are concerned about your dog or cat’s behaviour then speak to a vet or a behaviourist and find out more about how to support your furry friend in coping with the “new normal”. Appropriate training plans using positive reinforcement can help your pet learn how to cope with some of the various situations that arise in everyday life, which they may find challenging.  Stock up on treats so you have plenty to reward them with (as part of their balanced diet) by visiting Vitapaws Pet Treats range. If you want a treat that is a bit more than just a tasty reward, then the Vitapaws treat range come in DentaSupport, which encourage good oral hygiene, and DigestiSupport, which promote optimal digestive health.   


Pet Vaccinations and Boosters

A worryingly large percentage of the UK’s pet population have not received their regular vaccinations this year. This is a huge welfare concern because vaccinations protect pets from life-threatening diseases! As your pets’ guardian, vaccines and boosters can give you reassurance that you are doing your very best to protect them from harm and create or boost their immunity to certain diseases (see Table 1 below). Getting your pet vaccinated can help prevent them passing on diseases to you, your family and others they may encounter too, it can also help reduce the chance of large vets bills and putting them through pain and suffering if they do catch a disease.

Table 1. The diseases that pets’ “core” vaccines and boosters can protect them from.

Dogs Cats Rabbits
Canine Distemper
Infection Hepatitus (CAV)
Cat Flu (FHV, FCV)
Feline Infectious Enteritis (FPV)
Feline Leukaemia (FeLV)
Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 1 (RHD-1)
Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (RHD-2)


Weight Gain

Weight gain among pets has been an issue since March 2020. Lockdown has limited the opportunity for many pets to get enough outdoor access and exercise during the restricted periods. Furthermore being at home with a pet all day makes the temptation to feed them treats or keep them distracted with food all the harder to resist. If you’re unsure of whether your pet has gained some weight over the last year, then get the scales out! Not only the pet scales (it’s always useful to have an up-to-date weight for a pet, whether for medical care or to keep track of weight) but the food scales too. 
If you don’t regularly weigh out your pets’ food according to the manufacturers’ feeding guidelines, then it’s easy for amounts to “drift” away from the norm. You would also be surprised at how much daily feeding guides can vary within and between brands so if your pet has had a switch in diet recently, double check the guidelines and weigh out the appropriate amounts to check your portion sizes haven’t been getting overly generous! 
More information on helping your pet lose weight can be sought from your vet and more detailed articles on helping your dog or cat lose weight can be found here.



It’s been a really difficult and unusual 18 months for many of us humans and it has affected our pets too. We all want what is best for our pets and if you feel like your pet has been affected by any of the factors mentioned here, whether that’s behavioural changes, weight gain or missing routine vet appointments, it’s not too late to seek support and get them back on track with their care. Speak to your vet to seek further support. 

People’s Dispensary for Sick Animal (2021) PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report 2021 [online]. Available at: https://www.pdsa.org.uk/get-involved/our-campaigns/pdsa-animal-wellbeing-report/paw-report-2021 (accessed September 2021)