UNDATED - If you've noticed man's best friend packing on the pounds, you're not alone. The weight most pets should be isn't the weight most pets are.
"Pets are progressively more overweight just like people," says veterinary internist Dr. Tony Ishak. "You should be able to feel your pet's ribs pretty easily touching their sides. While you shouldn't be able to see them, you should be able to feel them without pushing through a pretty obvious layer of fat. Most cats and dogs have a nice tummy tuck where their chest is and it kind of goes up before their back legs."
The Association for the Prevention of Pet Obesity estimates 54% of cats and dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese and in many cases it's the human owners who are inadvertently to blame.
"People have a perception if I feed my dog more, I'm loving them more, and they sit and beg and they're cute and I'll continue to feed them from the table when in fact you're really killing your animal by overfeeding," says veterinarian Dr. Courtney Weigard.
Exercise for pets, just like people, is key. Experts also recommend laying off the human treats.
"So they don't necessarily need candy bars, french fries, ice cream, that sort of stuff as their treat," says Dr. Ishak. "You can get the same interaction and positive reinforcement by giving them a carrot or rice cake or a piece of their own kibble as a treat."
Just like humans, a long list of health dangers come with excess weight. They include high blood pressure, arthritis, and diabetes. Veterinarians also say the life span of an overweight pet can shorten by two years. The good news, if you have an overweight pet, it's never too late to switch them to a healthier lifestyle.
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