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America's obesity epidemic isn't just affecting humans.

June 29, 2017

If you’re sick of reading stories about how too many Americans are overweight or obese, here’s a change of pace for you: A new study suggests that America’s pets are overweight, too. Hey, we never said it was going to be an uplifting change of pace… just a change of pace.

According to recently released data from Banfield Pet Hospital, a Washington-based company with over 975 locations throughout the US, one in every three cats and dogs are overweight – and those numbers are continuing to trend upward. In the past ten years, these hospitals have seen a 158 percent increase in the number of overweight dogs and a 169 percent increase in the number of overweight cats. And those statistics are nothing to scoff at: They stem from around 2.5 million dogs and 505,000 cats seen across Banfield’s locations in 2016, so we’re not talking about a limited sample size.

An old assertion goes that, over time, people begin to look like their pets, and interestingly, as TIME points out, currently, about one third of US adults are obese as well. “It’s the new normal,” the Banfield reports states. “Obesity is so common that many people underestimate their pet's body condition, preventing them from taking action to manage their pet's weight.”

Banfield also stresses that keeping pets at a healthy weight has benefits for both animal and owner. Not only can a pet’s excess weight lead to ailments like arthritis and early onset of chronic diseases, but caretakers of these pets also rack up higher healthcare costs. For instance, Banfield says that over a four-year period, owners of overweight dogs end up spending nearly 25 percent more on medication. Meanwhile, overweight cats rack up 36 percent more in diagnostic procedure costs.

“Overweight pets — and the many related conditions associated with those extra pounds — are critical issues that we strive to both educate pet owners on and address in partnership with our clients to ultimately help pets live their best life,” said Dr. Daniel Aja, Banfield’s senior vice president and chief medical officer. And keep in mind, if you decide to eat an indulgent diet that’s your decision; your pet, on the other hand, doesn’t really have a choice.