Rewarding a pet with a treat for good behavior can lead to health complications in the future. It's time to throw out the table scraps and monitor the food diet of your fluffy friend.

In the U.S., obesity continues to be the leading health threat in pets. The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association reports that $21 billion out of $54 billion pet industry expenditures in the U.S. in 2012 was spent on food. According to a survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), 53 percent of dogs and 55 percent of cats in the U.S. are either overweight or obese. Obese pets tend to eat food that contains more energy than the energy they use up. However, pet owners have complete control of what their pets consume inside the home.

Pet owners often are in disbelief that food intake is the cause of their pet's obesity and believe that their pet is at a healthy weight. The truth of the matter is that a pet parent falls victim to "the fat gap" says Dr. Ernie Ward, founder of APOP and owner of award-winning small animal hospital Seaside Animal Care in Calabash, N.C. A disconnect between reality and a pet owner's perception of obesity is problematic for many veterinarians when informing pet owners that their pets need to shed a few pounds.

In a report released by Banfield Pet Hospital, 37 percent more dogs and 90 percent more cats are overweight compared to five years ago. The sample size of this study included approximately 2 million dogs and 430,000 cats under the care of Banfield veterinarians in 800 hospitals across the country. More than 75 percent of dog owners and 70 percent of cat owners believe their pet has an appropriate weight, according to Ward's study. A pet parent will have a biased view towards their furry friend and are most likely to ignore that their pet is obese. Although a sensitive matter, owners should think twice about feeding their pet a slice of cake or a cheeseburger. Food designated for your pet meets all their dietary needs because it caters to the appetite of a pet not a human.

Portion control is key to maintain a healthy weight for your pet, since pets often feed as much as you give them. Following the literature on pet food labels is vital. Labels list recommended food servings based on a pet's target weight, rather than a pet's current weight. So food portions should reflect pet's goal weight. Make sure pets have lots of opportunities for physical activity to offset their food intake.

According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), exercising can increase a pet's longevity and consume nervous energy that will make them less likely to chew or nibble on furniture or other household items. A little exercise can make a big difference in your pet's health and will protect against chronic illnesses brought on by obesity.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is classified as the top medical condition affiliated with excessive weight gain. In a study conducted at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, researchers found 61 percent of cats had radiographic evidence of OA. The majority of owners were unable to recognize arthritis symptoms in their cats, making it likely that OA goes on undetected in obese cats. The extra weight adds pressure to the cat's joints, both weight-bearing and non-weight bearing. Prevention is the best approach to this disease, because no cure exists.


Diabetes mellitus and insulin-resistant disorders can reduce a pet's life expectancy. Diabetes mellitus in cats can put the furry creatures at risk for high blood pressure, endangering their vital organs. Insulin resistance, the combination of high insulin and blood sugar levels, may produce the same effect in obese dogs. Nutrition and insulin therapy are important components of managing DM in both cats and dogs, according to the AAHA Diabetes Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. Prevention of DM and insulin-resistant disorders is simply regulating the amount of food intake of your pet to help maintain them at a healthy and normal weight.


Fat cells in animals have been linked to the development of cancer in pets. It is known to be the number one disease-related killer of pets, according to PetMD. It is important to note that cancer in pets in treatable. Excessive weight may cause or further complicate medical conditions in pets. In dogs, insulin resistance has the tendency to be linked to cancer, Canine Diabetes reports. To reduce the risk of developing a series of cancers, it is essential for pet owners to help pets achieve a healthier weight.

Read more:

Cat Weight Loss Plan: 5 Ways Your Fat Feline Can Get Trim

Weight Loss For Dogs: 5 Ways To Help Your Canine Go From Fat To Fit