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Originally published February 11, 2012 at 6:02 AM | Page modified February 11, 2012 at 12:55 PM

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Vets say more than half of dogs and cats are overweight

Survey finds obesity in pets is an expanding, costly epidemic.

Los Angeles Times

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About 53 percent of the nation's cats and 55 percent of dogs are overweight. And more... MORE
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America's obesity crisis is spreading — to our pets.

About 53 percent of the nation's cats and 55 percent of dogs are overweight. And more than one in five of those fat animals is clinically obese, meaning at least 30 percent above normal weight.

That's the, um, skinny from a study released this week by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP).

While you're getting your head around the fact that this country boasts an organization dedicated to chunky pets, consider this: All that flab on Fluffy and Fido can cost you plenty.

That's because fat cats and dogs are much more likely to end up with expensive health problems, according to Dr. Ernie Ward, a North Carolina veterinarian and founder of APOP.

"The number of obese pets is growing," Ward said. "This is troubling because it means more pets will be affected by weight-related diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease, costing pet owners millions in avoidable medical costs."

The trouble, Ward and other vets say, is us. Our pets aren't skipping the gym and raiding the fridge. We owners are overfeeding them. And we aren't getting off our duffs to give our pals enough walks and play time.

Then there's denial. About two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, according to the Center for Disease Control. That has distorted our perception of what's a normal weight, even for our pets.

To help owners grasp the situation, Ward's organization has created a "pet weight translator" (http://www.petobesityprevention.com/pet-weight-translator/) that puts the weight of cats and dogs into human terms.

Think love handles on your Pomeranian are cute? Every excess pound on a dog that small would equate to a 5-foot, 4-inch woman gaining 21 pounds, or a 5-foot-9 man putting 25 pounds of extra junk in his trunk, according to APOP.

The answer is not to buy a bigger doghouse or Sansabelt collar, vets say. Instead, feed your furry friends less and exercise them more.

Bottom line: Your pets will be healthier and probably live longer. That's priceless.

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