MINNEAPOLIS - In Minnesota, we're used to being at the top of a number of lists -- but we may save our bragging rights when it comes to a new report on the size of our pets.
According to a "State of Pet Health" report by Banfield Pet Hospital, Minnesota takes the cake for the fattest dogs and cats in the nation. The study, which based its findings on the physiques of more than 2.5 million pooches and 500,000 kitties in the country, states 41 percent of our dogs and 46 percent of our cats are overweight or obese.
In fact, Banfield's 2017 report found that one in three pets who visited Banfield pet facilities in 2016 was overweight or obese.
Dr. Kirk Breuninger, a veterinary research associate at Banfield Pet Hospital, said they noticed a trend in pets gaining weight five years ago.
"More than 20 disease conditions have been linked with pets being overweight," Breuninger said. "While some may say, 'My pet looks cute being pudgy or plump,' ultimately carrying those extra pounds contributes to exasperating these diseases."
Breuninger said a healthy weight could prolong a pet's life and delay chronic disease. He notes that the report found that the prevalence of overweight pets coincided with an uptick in arthritis and tracheal collapse in dogs.
And overweight pets aren't easy on pet owners' wallets.
The report found that over a four-year period, owners of overweight dogs spend 17% more in healthcare costs vs. owners of healthy dogs, and owners of overweight cats spend 36% more in diagnostic procedures versus owners of healthy weight cats.
He said a cocktail of factors could play a part in pets gaining a few extra pounds.
"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.
He said it's also possible that other issues are a play, like thyroid problems or even intestinal worms.
Breuninger suggests people consult with their vet about whether their pet is the ideal weight and develop a plan for shedding a few pounds or maintaining the ideal weight.
He notes that simple things like cutting back on treats and ensuring that your dog gets an adequate walk or exercise can ensure they are healthy.
"Even small changes can have big long-term effects," he said. "Even just going a few extra blocks can have a big difference and if you think about yourself, if you don’t exercise enough feel sluggish and not at your best and we have seen pets likely feel the same way too."