Obesity can both cost money and cut lives short—for both people and their pets. As concerns about human obesity balloon, so are worries about cats’ and dogs’ weight. And now, writes Don Dahler for CBS News, a new report claims there’s a one in three chance your cat or dog is fat.
The report on the state of pet health was assembled by Banfield Pet Hospital and is based on data gathered from 2.5 million dogs and half a million cats seen at veterinary hospitals. The results suggest that obesity plagues American pets: One in three cats and dogs is now overweight. These numbers have skyrocketed in the last ten years, with the number of overweight cats increasing by nearly 170 percent and overweight dogs increasing by nearly 160 percent.
That extra weight leads to higher healthcare costs, more diagnostic procedures and more money spent on medications. Lack of exercise, underestimations of ideal weight, and overfeeding cause plump pets, the report notes. But genetics and breed also play a role.
The pudgy pet trends in the report run counter to human obesity trends, reports The Washington Post’s Karin Brulliard. Places like Mississippi and Louisiana, which have high human obesity rates, are among the bottom five states for pet obesity. Meanwhile, fitter states don’t necessarily have fitter pets. Kirk Breuninger, the lead veterinarian on the report, told Brulliard that he “was surprised to find that pet and people weight problems don’t correlate by state.”
According to the report, the states with the highest percentage of fat pups are Minnesota, Nebraska, Michigan, Idaho and Nevada. The top five states for fattest cats are Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Idaho and Delaware.
So what can be done about Fido’s fat rolls? Plenty. The report warns owners not to feed pets human food, since it can represent a large part of a pet’s daily caloric needs. Working with your vet to come up with a weight loss plan for your pet can help, too.
Helping your pet slim down doesn’t have to be boring. As Smithsonian.com reported in 2013, dog gyms put your pet through their paces—and feature fun training for Fido. But they’ll also thin out your wallet with high prices.
There’s an even more fun way to slim down your pet: Exercise together. A 2006 study found that when overweight people with overweight pets embarked on a weight loss plan together, they lost slightly more weight than a group of overweight people with no pets. And even if you don’t end up getting fitter in the process, helping your beloved pet companion live a longer, healthier life is well worth the extra effort.