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Pet Obesity Makes Hefty Gains in U.S.

If your cat is looking more Garfield than gamine and your dog is becoming too fatso for a Fido, you're not alone. But that doesn't make pet corpulence a good thing.

According to a study conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention , 44 percent of dogs are overweight and 10 percent of them are obese. Fifty-seven percent of cats are overweight, 17 percent of them falling into the obese category. The study used data collected by 95 U.S. veterinary clinics in which weight data was collected for 870 animals.

Researchers said the study's population was representative of the veterinary patient population, which is two-thirds dogs and one-third cats. The pets' weight was ranked based on ideal ranges.

Obesity in pets can lead to health problems such as diabetes, spinal disc injuries, ligament tears and early-onset arthritis from excessive stress.

According to Pet Obesity Prevention , it's not difficult to tell if your pet is overweight. If you can't feel his or her ribs — whether canine or feline — or if you can grab onto a handful of saggy stomach, your pet might be overweight. Additional signs of a too-heavy pet include no discernable waist and broad, flat back.

How can you keep your pet trim?

Like people, dogs and cats can put on extra weight if their calorie intake is higher than the calories they burn off. Reduce the amount of food they get per day by about one-eighth to maintain their current weight.

Feed portions of a diet composed of high-quality protein sources, moderate percentages of high-quality fat and low in carbohydrates.

Instead of giving treats when your dog begs, give him some love instead. Distraction in the form of play (or a belly rub) is a good way for pets to forget they're a little hungry.

Swap out the treats. Try ice, carrots, sweet potatoes or apple chunks instead of processed, high-calorie pet treats.

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