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Quick Way to Tell If Your Pet Is Too Fat
We dearly love our furry friends, but too often we show them our love with food--too much of it. And they're turning into porky pets.

"Just as obesity has become a serious problem in people, it's also a growing problem in pets, one that can seriously harm your pet's health," says Carmela Stamper, a veterinarian in the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

According to a recent survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 58 percent of cats and 54 percent of dogs in the United States are overweight.

If you have a Labrador retriever, you might wonder: Why is my dog so fat? Blame it on THIS.

"The diseases we see in our overweight pets are strikingly similar to those seen in overweight people," Stamper says, naming as examples diabetes mellitus (also known as type 2 diabetes, in which the body does not use insulin properly), osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, heart and respiratory disease and kidney disease.

"We want our pets to live happy lives, but we also want them to live long ones," Stamper says. Obesity in your pet can significantly shorten the animal's life span.

How can you tell if your pet is TOO fat? In pets, 20 percent over ideal body weight is considered obese.

But the ideal weight is relative, depending on the animal's breed, age, body type and metabolism.

"In dogs, some breeds seem more inclined toward obesity than others," Stamper notes. Labs and beagles are two examples, as well as long, low dogs such as dachshunds and basset hounds. In contrast, while veterinarians are reporting more overweight and obese felines, no one specific cat breed is prone to obesity.

Neutering can slow down a dog or cat's metabolism and so can aging, especially if the animal gets less exercise than when younger. It is important to talk to your veterinarian about how much food your dog or cat should be eating.

Here are some basic signs to help you determine whether or not your pet is at a healthy weight:

  • Look at your animal from above. Does your pet have a definite waist? If not, and the animal's back is broad and flat like a footstool, he is likely overweight.

  • Run your hands along your pet's side. Can you easily feel the ribs or do you have to push hard to feel them?

  • Does your animal have a "tucked" abdomen or a sagging stomach? If you can easily grab a handful of fat, that's a sign your pet is overweight.

The real expert on the ideal weight for your animal is your vet, who marks changes over time in a way that you--who sees your animal every day--may not.

But do remember this, especially when those sweet puppy eyes are staring up at you: All things in moderation, Stamper says. For most animals, the occasional treat is just fine.

After doing a trick, does your dog prefer food or praise? You may be surprised by this!

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