U.S. pet obesity rate continues to rise

The obesity epidemic is hitting our pets, too.

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, roughly 53 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese. The group's research shows that that rate continues to rise. And more than 90 percent of owners did not recognize that their obese pets weighed more than they should.

New data from Nationwide, a national provider of pet health insurance, found that insurance claims for conditions and diseases related to pet obesity rose by 10 percent over the past two years.

In 2014, the insurance company received more than 42,000 claims for arthritis in canines, the most common obesity-related disease, with an average treatment cost of $292 per pet. Obese cats suffered most from bladder and urinary tract disease, with more than 4,700 pet insurance claims for those conditions and an average claim amount of $424.

Los Angeles veterinarian Dr. Jeff Werber said that the problem stems from pet owners who are uninformed about proper health and nutrition for their furry friends.

"Dogs don't get into the cookie jar by themselves," Werber told CBS News. "Pet parents don't understand the importance of the changing caloric intake of pets and when to switch from puppy to adult formula." Ask your veterinarian for guidance on food that best fits your pet's needs.

Other simple steps to help keep a pet's weight in check include:

  • Not feeding your pet table scraps
  • Monitoring the amount of food you give your pet
  • Limiting treats
  • Establishing an exercise schedule

Werber told CBS News that regular exercise for pets is just as important as a proper diet. He suggested walking more with dogs or throwing a ball or frisbee. Cats can get exercise by chasing around a laser pointer or a toy mouse dangling from a string. "Any activity that you can devise is better than none," he said.

Werber also stressed the importance of working with a vet to establish a proper diet and exercise plan for your pet. "You need to make sure the pet is healthy before starting a diet and exercise regimen," he said.

He added "Not only are you going to add years to your pet's life, but it's good for the emotional health and physical health of both parents and pets."

Neglecting a pet's weight problem can lead to some serious health issues. See below for the most common obesity-related conditions for cats and dogs, according to Nationwide:

The Most Common Obesity-Related Conditions for Dogs

  1. Arthritis
  2. Bladder/Urinary Tract Disease
  3. Low Thyroid Hormone Production
  4. Liver Disease
  5. Torn Knee Ligaments
  6. Diabetes
  7. Diseased Disc in the Spine
  8. Fatty Growth
  9. Chronic Kidney Disease
  10. Heart Failure

The Most Common Obesity-Related Conditions for Cats

  1. Bladder/Urinary Tract Disease
  2. Chronic Kidney Disease
  3. Diabetes
  4. Liver Disease
  5. Asthma
  6. Arthritis
  7. High Blood Pressure
  8. Heart Failure
  9. Gall Bladder Disorder
  10. Immobility of Spine