Fat cats (and dogs): Obesity can shorten your pet’s life

As cute as your chunkster may be, it’s important to help your fur-baby maintain a healthy weight

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Viewers shared their photos of their beloved chubby fur babies with News4Jax, including "120 lbs of big boy," Angus, "our Sweetie girl" and "Kenzie."

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – We all watch our waistlines, but still, an estimated 70% of adults are overweight or obese. Would it surprise you to know that the stats are almost as bad for our pets?

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention reports a staggering 56% of dogs and 60% of cats in the U.S. are chunky monkeys. And it’s just as bad for them, as it is for us.

If your pet is carrying too many pounds, it can cause arthritis, diabetes, blood pressure, kidney disease, cancer, heart and respiratory disease.

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention reports 56% of dogs and 60% of cats in the US are overweight. It is important for us to monitor what our pets eat in order for them to be healthy.

If that’s not enough to get you to quit feeding your four-legged family members those table scraps, here’s another shocking statistic: Obesity takes almost two years off a dog’s life.

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To help your dog lose weight, feed them high-protein, low-fat foods. They produce optimal weight loss because protein and fiber stimulate metabolism.

Eliminating table scraps and treats is important. Feeding green beans and other vegetables is a good alternative to treats.

There are a wide variety of commercial and prescription dog foods available in both canned and kibble that are formulated for weight loss and maintenance. Homemade diets are not recommended because they often lack daily vitamin and mineral requirements.

Veterinarians say you should make those dietary changes gradually, so you don’t upset your pet’s gastrointestinal tract. Unless your veterinarian instructs otherwise, once a new food is purchased, mix half of the new food with half of the old food and feed this mixture for seven days. After that, you can safely feed the new food only.

Exercise is as important as diet in reaching and maintaining healthy body weight. There are a variety of options for exercise, including 30 minutes per day of leash walking. You can break this up into 10-minute increments.

Outdoor games, treadmill training and swimming help, too. Taking your pet for an afternoon at a dog day care two to three times a week can induce playtime and exercise.

Your pet will thank you and be healthier and around a whole lot longer to love you.

We know how much our viewers love to share photos of their fur babies. We asked you to “Show us your chonks” and boy, did you deliver! We got nearly 600 photos! Check out some of them in our photo gallery above and click on the post below to scroll through -- and head into your weekend with a smile.

About the Author:

This Emmy Award-winning television, radio and newspaper journalist has anchored The Morning Show for 18 years.