" Just like their human masters, a majority of American pets have a weight problem, a study released Thursday says.
In its fourth yearly study of how fat Americans' four-legged furry friends are, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found that 53 percent of cats and more than 55 percent of dogs were overweight or obese.
That means there are around 50 million fat cats and 43 million pudgy dogs in the United States.
The study looked at 133 adult cats and 383 dogs.
Nearly a third of the cats were classified by their veterinarians as overweight and nearly 22 percent were deemed to be clinically obese, the study found.
Among the canines observed, 35 percent were found to be overweight and 20.6 percent were obese.
"We're seeing a greater percentage of obese pets than ever before," said Dr Ernie Ward, founder of APOP.
In 2007, roughly 19 percent of cats and a mere 10 percent of dogs were found in the APOP study to be obese -- defined for the family pet as having a body weight that is 30 percent greater than normal.
"This is troubling because it means more pets will be affected by weight-related diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease," the same illnesses that afflict obese humans, Ward said.
American cats and dogs are doing slightly better, in obesity terms, than their masters and mistresses, around one in three of whom is obese."
Thu Feb 24, 7:05 pm ET WASHINGTON (AFP)
Q. When is a dog considered to be fat?
A. Veterinarians often use a 9 point scoring system to evaluate the body condition of pets.
A point value of 1 means the dog or cat is extremely thin to the point of emaciation. A score of 9 means the pet is grossly overweight. And like Goldilocks and the three bears, a score of 5 is 'just right.'
To determine body score, there are several specific areas of the dog or cat we look at. Remember, these are guidelines. A Greyhound with a score of 5 is still going to be thinner than a Bulldog with the same score.
To perform the rating, we first feel the pet's ribs. We should be able to quite easily feel the ribs. There should be a slight amount of fat over them, but each rib should be distinct. If you can see the ribs, the pet is too thin. If you can not feel them at all, the pet is very overweight.
Second, check the area near the base of the tail. There should be a slight fat covering over this area and it should feel smooth. If the bones protrude, the pet is too thin; if you can not feel any bones at all, the pet is very overweight.
Third, feel other bony prominences on the pet's body such as the spine, shoulders, and hips. Again, you should be able to feel a small amount of fat over these areas. If these bones are easily felt or visible, the dog or cat is too thin. If you can not feel the bones beneath the layer of fat, the animal is obviously overweight.
Fourth, look at your pet from above. The animal should have a definite waist behind the ribs. If the waist is extreme, or again, bony prominences are visible, the animal is too thin. If there is no waist, or worse yet, the area between the ribs and hips is wider than the hips or ribs, the dog or cat is grossly overweight.
Fifth, look at the pet from the side. Dogs and cats should have an abdominal tuck, i.e., the area behind the ribs should be smaller in diameter than the chest. This can vary a lot between breeds. Irish Setters and Greyhounds, for instance, appear to have a much more distinct abdominal tuck, since they are so deep-chested. An animal who is too thin will have a very severe abdominal tuck.
Overweight animals will have no abdominal tuck.
If you feel your dog is overweight, consult your veterinarian to determine if there are any other medical problems before starting the animal on a weight reduction program. Your veterinarian can also suggest various diets, how fast your pet should lose weight, etc.