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New Study Shows Obesity Epidemic Spreading To America's Pets

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Are your pets getting a little pudgy? Is your dog looking a little distended, or your cat a bit corpulent?

Well, it may not just be in your head. A new study shows obesity in America has now spread to the pet population.

While it may look cute, the extra fat can be life-threatening.

As CBS News' Don Dahler reports, busy lifestyles and unhealthy diets are wreaking havoc on not just our own health, but the health of our pets as well.

"We've been seeing that over the past ten years, overweight and obesity in our cats and dogs has increased by 160 to 170 percent," Dr. Kirk Breuninger said.

Breuninger is the lead veterinary researcher behind a new study by Banfield Pet Hospital, and says one out of every three cats and dogs are overweight.

He attributes this increase to a number of factors, including a 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 show our affection by offering them treats and it can be pretty easy for us to offer too many treats in a single day to our pets," Dr. 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.

"For example, heart disease and respiratory disease are something that we will see," Dr. Breuninger said. "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, such as hyperthyroidism or arthritis."

So how do you know if your pet needs the treadmill treatment? After all, animals -- especially dogs -- come in all different shapes and sizes.

Dr. Breuninger says looking at your pet from above, you should see a distinct tuck at your dog or cat's waist. From the side, you should be able to easily feel, but not see, their ribs.

Simple things like cutting back on treats and ensuring your dog gets a walk in each day will go a long way. But it's still important to remember that each breed of cat and dog is different, so you should always consult a vet to determine your pet's level of fitness before you change its diet.

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