Why Is Your Cat So Fat? Pets, Like People, Are Becoming Increasingly Overweight in the U.S.

 A new report said American pets are becoming increasingly overweight.
Male cat Mikesch weighing an impressive 18,5 kilos sits in her enclosure, where it was dropped off on Thursday at the animal home in Berlin April 2, 2004. A new report released on June 27, 2017, said American pets are becoming increasingly overweight. Fabrizio Bensch FAB/REUTERS

The weight problem in America has increased dramatically in recent years, with more than a third of adults suffering from obesity in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Now, the health issue is starting to trickle over to cats and dogs.

One in every three pets who visited Banfield Pet Hospitals around the U.S. were either overweight or obese in 2016, according to the veterinary hospital’s 2017 State of Pet Health report released on Tuesday.

The yearly report lists the health conditions of over 2.5 million dogs and 500,000 cats who visited one of the animal medical center’s 975 pet hospital locations in the U.S. in 2016. Comparing figures from the number of overweight cats and dogs reported in 2006, the report saw a 169 percent increase in cats in the U.S. were overweight and obese in 2016 and a 158 percent rise in dogs.

The weight gain is causing an increase in serious health conditions in cats and dogs, 20 percent of which are directly related to being overweight—including various types of diabetes and respiratory illnesses, a veterinary research associate at Banfield, Dr. Kirk Breuninger, told USA Today on Tuesday.

"While some may say, 'My pet looks cute being pudgy or plump,' ultimately carrying those extra pounds contributes to [exacerbating] these diseases,” Breuninger said, adding that instances of overweight pets have led to an increased prevalence of arthritis and tracheal collapse in dogs specifically within the last five years.

"We know a few things that are really linked with pets becoming overweight, one of which is pets not getting enough exercise, pets eating too much food, and pet owners who really consider pets a part of the family use treats as a form of communication with pets," he said.

The cost of overweight and obese cats and dogs is also taking a toll on pet owners’ pockets. The report found owners of overweight dogs spent 17 percent more on health-related pet costs than owners of healthy dogs. People with overweight dogs were also found to spend an estimated $2,026 more a year for obesity-related conditions.

Meanwhile, owners of overweight cats spent 36 percent more on pet health care cost than people whose cats were at a healthy weight. And owners spent some $1,178 extra a year solely on feline obesity-related conditions.

Although every breed of cat and dog has its own unique ideal weight, Breuninger suggested pet parents cut back on treats and make sure pets are getting proper exercise to help combat obesity.