If your pet is piling on too many pounds, we've got some tips and tricks to help.

Is your beloved pet a little, well, portly? If so, you're not alone.

A recent U.S. survey found that a whopping 53 per cent of cats and 55 per cent of dogs are overweight or obese. A recent study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) looked at data from veterinary clinics across the country. And the results showed that our furry family members are growing -- and not in a good way.

"This year's data suggests that our pets are getting fatter," APOP founder Dr. Ernie Ward said in a release. "We're seeing a greater percentage of obese pets than ever before."

The group began conducting nationwide veterinary surveys in 2007. Since that time it has seen a steady increase of pets that are classified as overweight or obese. (To be considered obese, a pet is at least 30 per cent above normal body weight).

In 2007, for example, about 19 per cent of cats were found to be obese by their veterinarian and in 2010 that number increased to almost 22 per cent. And for dogs, obesity rates nearly doubled from just over 10 per cent in 2007 to 20 per cent in 2010.

According to the most recent numbers available from the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, 35 per cent of pets were overweight as of 2005. (Interestingly, at this time, nearly the same percentage of people in Canada -- 36 per cent -- was also considered overweight.)

Like humans, overweight and obese dogs and cats have an increased risk for serious health problems including diabetes, osteoarthritis, kidney disease, gastrointestinal problems, high blood pressure and respiratory problems.

Diet can also affect your pet's longevity. A study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (2002) found that dogs fed 25 per cent less food lived longer and experienced delayed onset of chronic diseases, compared with a control group.

NEXT: HOW TO SHED UNWANTED PET POUNDS

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by:
Cynthia Ross Cravit