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Our relationships with pets might be to blame for their growing obesity problem

Sometimes it's obvious, but other times it's tough to tell that your pet is overweight, according to says Deborah Linder, a board certified veterinary nutritionist from Tufts University.

There’s another growing obesity problem in American: Our pets are getting fatter.

“Up to 60 percent of our cats and dogs in America are overweight,” says Deborah Linder, a board certified veterinary nutritionist from Tufts University.

Tufts recently opened the nation’s first clinic specifically focusing on pet obesity. They are researching different ways to slim down our cats and dogs.

“How do we help pets feel more full so they beg a little bit less? Is there something about the relationship (between) pets and their owners?” asks Linder. “If we know a little bit more about them, can we make the weight loss more successful?”

Sometimes it’s obvious, but other times it’s tough to tell that your pet is overweight.

“So the best thing we can do – I call it the hand test,” says Linder, explaining how to tell if your pet is overweight. “If you have your hand held out flat and you’re running your fingers over your knuckles on the back of your hand that’s exactly what your pets ribs should feel like.”

If you can barely feel the ribs: bad news – you have a fat pet.

That means it’s time to look at exactly how much they are eating.

“So the first thing is just to get a good diet history,” says Linder. She frequently recommends that pet owners start a diet journal.

“Start a journal first thing in the morning. Include things they chew on, things that they need to give medication or pills in, treats when they come back from a walk, when they go to the gas station, when they go to the bank. Also, the main meals – sometimes people just like to think about that main meal but all of the rest of things (food they eat) are going to be really important for us to address.”

Like our own diets, calories are calories, and you will have to cut back how much you’re giving them, because there are several consequences for an overweight pet.

According to Linder, there are more and more studies that show diseases like diabetes, joint problems, even lifespan can be tied to overweight pets.

“We have a study that shows pets who are just a little bit overweight lived on average two years less than their slim counterparts,” says Linder. “So there are so many incredible benefits to keeping them lean and mean.”

With an increase in obese pets, we had to ask – was there a correlation between obese owners and their heavier pets?

“Interestingly not. I do get asked that commonly. I think it’s so much more the relationship,” says Linder. “I even have people that are body builders that are themselves incredibly physically fit, and I say, ‘How is it that we have a very overweight cat in the household?’ And they go, ‘You know – she meows at me.'”

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