Not surprisingly, researchers have found that, as with humans, the trend has been climbing steadily year after year.
So, just like us, more than half of our pets are overweight or obese. And guess what? Our pets get many of the same health problems that we do. Overfed and under-exercised pets suffer from the familiar aliments that obese and overweight humans do - diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, arthritis, joint and hip degeneration, and kidney disease.
Obesity-related health care costs Americans $344 billion annually. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, "In 2010, pet owners holding insurance policies with Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. shelled out $25 million to vets for obesity-related conditions, such as ligaments ruptures (about $860,000), disc disease ($649,000) and asthma ($163,000). At Petplan USA in Philadelphia, five of the top insurance clams all have a close correlation to obesity."
While some may think pudgy pets are funny or cute, they most certainly are not. Allowing our pets to get fat is tantamount to abuse. Cruelty to animals is illegal in all 50 states and a felony in 44.
If feeding our beloved pets until they can no longer walk, or until they have diabetes or die prematurely is not an act of cruelty, then what is?
Just like us, our dogs and cats are not getting enough exercise either. Every day, big dogs need about 30 minutes to an hour of exercise, smaller dogs about 15 to 30 minutes, and cats about 15 minutes.
That's right, every day.
So pick up that old Frisbee for your next trot over to the dog park.
Cures for the pudgy pet
Hill's Science Diet Weight Loss System website (www.sciencediet.com) offers pet owners these free tips and tools:
_ Pet Profiling: A guide to the warning signs of an overweight pet and tips for self-assessment.
_ WeightCheck Tool: An interactive, personalized weigh-in for your pet.
_ The Human Parallel: See how a few extra pounds on your pet equals nearly five times the same amount on a human.
_ Treat Translator: Understand what a small snack for your pet equals in human terms.
_ Calorie Burn Chart & Pet Workouts: Simple ways to incorporate more exercise into your pet's life.
Much as our children depend on us to feed them healthy foods and teach them good eating habits, our pets look to us for that guidance, too. We must step up to the challenge and lead by example.
Kimberly Garrison is a certified personal trainer and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia (www.1on1ultimatefitness.com). E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears each Thursday in Yo!