AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Obesity is affecting our pets.
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, about 53 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese, and those numbers are continuing to rise. They found that more than 90 percent of owners did not know their pet weighed more than they should.
Doctor David Faulkner of Hope Veterinary Clinic said 10 percent of his patients are obese.
Excessive body fat can increase the risk of preventable health issues and can shorten the life expectancy of our pets.
Veterinarians said if dogs are overweight they can also commonly develop arthritis, urinary tract disease, liver disease, diabetes, and heart failure. They also said cats can develop chronic kidney disease, diabetes, asthma, immobility of the spine, and gall bladder disorder.
Pets who are obese may develop other health conditions that require medical care, which can be expensive.
"You can drop hundreds to thousands of over the life of a dog more than you would have had we kept him healthy in the first place," said Doctor Merten Pearson.
In 2014, Nationwide pet insurance members filed more than $54 million in pet insurance claims for conditions and diseases related to pet obesity, which is a 10 percent growth over the last two years.
They received more than 42,000 claims for arthritis in dogs. The average treatment cost for this condition is $292 per pet. More than 4,700 claims were filled for cats suffering from bladder and urinary tract disease, and the average treatment cost for those conditions is $424.
Veterinarians believe the best way to avoid these charges is to manage your pets weight.
Pearson suggests keeping animals lean. "If you keep them on the lean side not skinny but lean they're healthier, they live longer, they have fewer joint problems, (and) they have fewer back problems," Pearson said.
They said pet owners need to be aware of the quality and amount of food or treats they give to their pets. They suggest creating regular exercise routines and managing their eating habits by avoiding table scraps, keeping a consistent diet, and regulating the amount of treats a pet gets.
Veterinarians said one of the main causes of obesity is snacking. Pearson said many treats like Milk-Bones are loaded with calories. He said animals snacking on several treats is like us eating several candy bars.
Pearson suggests working a pet's treats into their diet by taking out a few pieces of their allotted food and give it to them whenever they want a snack.
Faulkner said you can also give them healthier treats. "(Give them) good healthy treats like boiled chicken, green beans, yogurt, versus the stuff that you get off of the shelves that has a lot of preservatives in it," Faulkner said.