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Helping your overweight pet

Minnesota usually ranks in the top 10 among the 50 states when it comes to good health. Unfortunately, Minnesota recently came out on top of another health survey: most overweight pets. 

Banfield Pet Hospital, a national veterinary clinic service, published its State of Pet Health 2017 Report, focusing on pet obesity. About 41 percent of dogs and 46 percent of cats are too fat in the North Star State. 

Animal obesity, like in people, is unhealthy. Overweight dogs and cats have more health problems than their lean counterparts, including more than 20 associated diseases and conditions, like cardiac disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, difficulty breathing, arthritis and urinary incontinence. Obese cats often have difficulty grooming and may develop skin problems. 

Obesity also increases expenses. With more illness comes more veterinary visits and medications; Banfield estimates that your overweight pet can cost you $1,200 to $2,000 more per year than if your pet was in peak shape. 

Why Minnesotans, who seem to take our own health seriously, tend to have overweight pets is a complex question. Admittedly, weather may be a factor. Who wants to take Rover for a walk when it's 20 below zero? Plus, in the dead of winter, it is often dark out before and after the work day, making it even less appealing to go outside. But cold weather is only part of the problem. 

People tend to overfeed their furry buddies as a show of affection. While a small piece of chicken off your dinner plate may not seem like a lot, it doesn't take much before the pounds creep on. Obesity is defined as 20 percent over ideal weight. That is only 4.4 pounds for a 22-pound dog. 

The solution is simple. Cut back on food and increase your pet's activity, even by 10 minutes a day. Here are some suggestions: 

  • Give up the table scraps and measure out your pet's kibble.
  • Play fetch with a ball or favorite toy.
  • Use a laser light or inexpensive cat toy to bring out the tiger in your kitty.
  • Get a reflective collar for those nighttime walks.
  • Buy or build a cat tower to encourage climbing and crawling.
  • Make walking with your dog a priority. Many communities have easily accessible walking trails, paths or walkways.

You may also reap the benefits from playing with your pet by becoming more active yourself. If you have children, family dog walks or cat play time serve as learning experiences for your children on how to care for a pet. Another benefit is improved mental health for your pet. Active, healthy animals are less likely to misbehave because they are not bored and looking for trouble.

So, Minnesotans, let's get fit with our pets and get to the top of the healthiest pets in America list.

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