Boston, MA – It’s no secret America’s in a fight against fat. But, these days, humans aren’t the only Americans being affected by our obesity epidemic–our pets’ waistlines are bulging too. In fact, approximately 40% of our nation’s dogs and cats are overweight or obese, according to a study by the American Journal of Veterinary Research. Being heavy isn’t cheap either. Research shows Americans shelled out tens of millions of dollars last year in obesity-related veterinary costs alone.

«Obesity is one of the most common health issues we see as general veterinarians,» says Heidi Bassler, DVM, medical director of Veterinary Center of Greater Newburyport. «Ironically, the serious and costly diseases associated with being overweight are also the most preventable.» Year after year, pet obesity remains a leading cause of preventable disease and death in dogs and cats.

High Risk, Soaring Costs
«Some pet parents might not see a problem with their pet’s extra pound or two,» Bassler points out, «but in an down economy like this one, pet owners will likely take issue with paying higher veterinary bills and that’s what having an overweight pet often leads to.» A few extra pounds on a dog or cat can be comparable to a human living with 30 to 50 extra pounds. When a pet is overweight, their whole body has to work harder to support those extra pounds.

From diabetes to arthritis, disc disease, cruciate ligament rupture, hypertension, and even asthma, studies show the risks of being a fat pet are very high. «The vet bills associated with these conditions can be sky high,» says Bassler. «Any one of these diseases could require costly treatment and some can evolve into chronic and even incurable conditions.»

Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) recently reported it reimbursed more than $14 million last year for claims with direct links to pet obesity. Sure enough, some of the most common claims included illnesses such as diabetes and joint and back issues.

FAT FACTS
· Up to 60 percent of American adults are overweight or obese

· 7.2 million dogs are estimated to be obese and 26 million overweight. The number in cats is higher, with 15.7 million estimated to be obese and 35 million overweight in the U.S.

· Smaller pets can tip the scales with only two to three pounds of extra weight

· 52.1% of dogs and 55% of cats over age seven were found to be overweight or obese

Sources: Journal of the American Medical Association, Journal of Nutrition

How Cutting Corners Can Hurts Pets
«In a down economy like ours, pet owners are often tempted to switch to cheaper pet food brands in order to cut corners,» explains Bassler. «The problem is, cheaper foods are generally not as nutritious. Making sure a pet gets enough exercise, eats quality food in the proper amounts, and avoids eating too many caloric treats can literally add years to their life and save precious dollars in the long run.» Results from a Purina® study confirm the link between body fat and the development of chronic health conditions. This study found that even moderate weight gain is problematic, so it is important for pet owners to take the steps necessary to ensure their pet’s health.

What you can do?
To help your pets stay at a healthy weight and

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