Research finds 1 in 3 American cats and dogs are too plump

A new study shows the nationwide obesity epidemic now includes our pets. 

Busy lifestyles and unhealthy diets are wreaking havoc on our pets and while porky animals may look cute, the extra fat can cause life-threatening conditions, reports CBS News correspondent Don Dahler. 

fat-pets-doc-breuninger.jpg

Dr. Kirk Breuninger

Banfield Pet Hospital

"Overweight and obesity in our cats and dogs has increased by 160 to 170 percent," according to Dr. Kirk Breuninger, the lead veterinary researcher behind a study by Banfield Pet Hospital.

"Right now, one out of three cats and dogs are overweight," Breuninger said. 

He attributes this increase to a number of factors: lack of exercise, too much food and a changing attitude towards our pets. 

"We are starting to consider pets more and more to be members of our family and we like to communicate with them and show our affection to them by offering them treats and it can be pretty easy for us to offer too many treats in a single day to our pets," Breuninger said. 

That's a problem, because – just as in humans – lugging around all that extra weight can be hazardous to your pet's health.

fat-pets-walking-dog-on-treadmill.jpg

Treadmill treatment. 

CBS News

"For example, heart disease and respiratory disease are something that we'll see. Type 2 diabetes is something that we will see with cats that are obese, and we can see other diseases that are linked with dogs being overweight," Breuninger said.

So how do you know if your pet needs the treadmill treatment? 

happy-the-beagle-fat.jpg

Happy the beagle before his diet. 

Mark Simon

After all, animals – especially dogs – come in all different shapes and sizes.

Breuninger says you can use this as a general guide: looking at your pet from above, he says you should see a distinct tuck at your dog or cat's waist.  And from the side, you should be able to easily feel – but not see – its ribs. 

But if Fido is too fat, or Fluffy is, well, too fluffy, there is something you can do about it.

"You can forget that your pet needs exercise, too," said Debora Montgomery, who is with the Morris Animal Inn in New Jersey, a kind of daycare for pets where they can run trails, or swim or just play.

But if you don't have access to that kind of place Montgomery said, "You know even taking a walk you get a chance to bond with your pet. It's just something simple as giving them more of a healthy diet." 

happy-the-beagle-skinny.jpg

Happy the beagle after his diet. 

Mark Simon

That's what worked for Happy – a rather unhappy beagle.

When she was 10, she weighed 43 pounds and was sluggish and unhealthy. Her new owner simply walked her more often and traded healthy snacks for the junk she used to eat.

At 14, Happy's a svelte 28 healthy pounds.

Dr. Breuninger says that simple things like cutting back on treats and ensuring that your dog gets in a walk each day will go a long way.

It's important to remember that each breed of cat and dog is different, so you should always consult a vet before you change their routine or their diet.