February 7, 2008 / 8:26 PM / 12 years ago

Estimated 17 million U.S. dogs overweight or obese

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - People are not the only ones fighting the battle of the bulge, millions of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese, according to animal experts.

A Great Dane looks at a Yorkshire terrier during an International dog show in Budapest October 20,2007. People are not the only ones fighting the battle of the bulge, millions of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese, according to animal experts. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

Up to 40 percent, or 17 million dogs, are carrying excess weight which could cause future health problems, but many of their owners are not even aware of it.

“What we’ve found in talking with dog owners is that it’s difficult for them to see the reality that their own pet may be overweight or obese, instead of just chubby or fluffy,” said Lisa Peterson of the American Kennel Club Humane Fund.

“Studies are indicating that there are approximately 17 million dogs out there that may be overweight or obese. It is a troubling statistic that dogs are gaining weight, just as humans are,” she added in an interview.

While an extra 10 pounds on a man or woman can be a bit uncomfortable and mean loosening the belt or a bigger dress size, for a normal 40-pound dog the excess could put it 25 percent over its ideal weight.

To help dog owners identify their overweight canines, the AKC is urging owners to check their dog’s weight through the Web site www.stopcanineobesity.com. Up to 4,000 veterinarians across the United States are participating in the program to raise awareness of the problem, according to Peterson.

“About 30 percent of dog owners may not even know their dogs are overweight so this is a great way to start a conversation about their dog’s weight,” she said.

The main cause of obesity in dogs, as in humans, is overeating and insufficient exercise. Neutering, hormonal disorders and slow metabolism can also cause dogs to pile on the pounds. Canine middle-age spread usually occurs by about the age of five or six years old.

Certain breeds including Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, Collies, Shelties, Basset Hounds, Dachshunds, Labradors and Golden Retrievers are prone to excess weight.

Like humans, overweight dogs are more at risk of developing heart or respiratory disease, joint problems, arthritis and diabetes.

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