Fat pets: how extra weight can lead to health problems in your pet

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Proud pet parents shower their fur babies with love, often in the form of extra treats or human food handouts.

While it may seem innocent to reward Fido or Fluffy, veterinary clinics say it can end with pets packing on too many pounds. The end result—a chubby cat or doughy dog who needs to slim down.

East Valley Vet Clinic said they're seeing an increase in four-legged patients who need to lose weight—it’s now about one out of every four appointments.

Sometimes only a small drop in weight is necessary. Other times, a more dramatic weight loss is in order.

What causes pets to plump up? Vets say lack of exercise, human food, free feeding and an overabundance of treats.

Pet owners like Bryan Lamoreaux can relate to some of those common culprits.

His cat Mustache is overweight.

"We free feed him, so there’s always food in his bowl," Lamoreaux said.

Elaine Ereckson said her 8-year-old Border Collie Felicity has gained so much weight, she's now 86 pounds.

"On one of her vet visits, I was informed that she was kind of obese," Ereckson said.

She has a good idea why.

"My husband likes to share everything he eats with her, so she gets a lot of table scraps," Ereckson explained.

FOX 13's Kerri Cronk said her 14-year-old Chug (Chihuahua Pug), Daisy, gets a lot of treats and scraps from the table, too.

Even though a vet told Cronk Daisy is healthy, the pup is overweight.

"We try and go for walks," Cronk said. "We make it not very far, and then she stops. So I carry her the rest of the way."

Vets say pets who need to lose a few, could end up gaining health problems.

Casey Moore, lead vet tech at East Valley Vet Clinic, said that includes diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure—which could culminate in early death.

"We are also seeing a lot of heart disease… a lot of liver issues," Moore said. "Overall, their health is very compromised."

Here's an easy way to tell if your dog or cat could stand to shed some pounds: "Apply your fingers to their ribs," Moore explained. "If you have to press at all, then we’re too heavy."

The further you have to press in to feel the ribs, she explained, the more overweight your pet is.

Moore also said the animal should have a natural dip by the hips, creating an hourglass shape on the body.

Should you find your beloved four-legged friend is a little heavy, Moore suggests placing them on a diet.

"We recommend calorie reduction, and then we often recommend a diet food," she said. A diet food will contain higher fiber and fewer calories, Moore explained.

Healthy Pets Mountain West, a pet food store in Cottonwood Heights, also gave a few good tips like switching to healthier treats and giving your pet 30 minutes of exercise a day.

Co-owner Kris Lamoreaux, who is Bryan Lamoreaux's sister, said treats made strictly with dehydrated meats are the way to go.

Pet owners can also substitute in frozen treats like green beans or blueberries, Kris Lamoreaux explained.

"People don't know that some of the best treats are frozen vegetables just right out of your freezer," she said.

Ereckson is going to start feeding Felicity smaller, more frequent meals. Lamoreaux said that can help the dog feel fuller, even though they're eating less.

Daisy gets doggy workouts on the stairs for exercise.

Lamoreaux and Moore stressed that each animal is different—what works for one may not work for another.

Your pet might not be a fan or their new diet and exercise, but Moore said animal owners who stay consistent can start to see weight loss results within a few weeks.

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