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Preventing obesity in your dog or cat

As Americans have gotten fatter over the years, so have their pets. About 53 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats are overweight, according to a 2013 survey of veterinarians conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.

Yet, many pet owners don’t recognize the problem or take steps to slim down their pets by helping them get more activity or feeding them less.

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About 45 percent of cat and dog owners whose pets were overweight reported in the survey that they thought their pet’s weight was normal.

Like humans, pets who are overweight are more likely to develop high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and weight-related musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis. These conditions could shorten their life span by an average of two to three years.

Pet owners with overweight pets should take steps to reverse the problem. A veterinarian can provide guidance on reducing calorie consumption to try to help pets lose weight gradually. They can also rule out hormonal problems that could be causing the weight gain.

Super-low-calorie pet foods should be used only under a doctor’s supervision.

Committing to take a dog for longer walks can also be helpful. Cats can be encouraged to get more active with electronic toys that they can chase.

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