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Obesity in household pets is becoming an increasingly dangerous problem around the globe. Experts estimate that approximately one-third of all dogs and cats in America are overweight. The numbers are astounding when you consider that by this figure alone, there are more than 39 million overweight household animals in the United States alone.

Medical Problem
Weight can sometimes be indicative of an underlying medical problem, though that's generally not the case. Most overweight pets simply consume too much. However, if you're noticing other signs of distress in your animal, such as excessive panting, skin irritation, urinary discomfort or excessive thirst, it's safe to assume a trip to your local veterinarian is in order. Older dogs and cats are susceptible to the same age related illnesses that plague humans. High blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis can all lead to weight problems in your furry friend.

The Test
The easiest way to determine whether your animal is obese is to begin with a simple test. For both dogs and cats, have the animal stand upright in front of you. Run your hands across both sides of the body, from front to back. If you cannot feel your pet's ribs, it's time to trim the tummy.

Start simple daily exercise is the easiest way to get your pet back into shape. For dogs, begin with walks. If your dog is not accustomed to daily walking routines, start slow. Take him around the block once a day for a week and slowly increase the distance you travel weekly. Ideally, you should provide your dog with two, twenty minute walks per day. Larger dogs will need to spread their legs more. Swimming, runs and jogs are all effective weight loss exercises for big breed dogs. Start slow and give your dog time to adapt.

For cats, excesses can be more difficult. Some cats do enjoy walks and will even be capable of being leash trained. For those that aren't, begin a play routine at home. Start with light playing and work up to a fifteen minute vigorous play session per day. Be sure to provide your cat with enough toys and entertainment to want to exercise.

Watch the food
Overeating and overfeeding is a common cause of obesity in household animals. Switching from your pet's usual food to one that is high in dietary fiber and low in fat will help to cut calories. It's okay to place your pet on a diet, too. Begin by reducing the amount of food you feed your pet by one-quarter. After a few weeks, repeat the rib test and note any changes. If your animal still feels plump, cut back his food supply by another one-quarter. If a rib test a few weeks later shows no change, see your veterinarian for diet guidelines and additional resources.

Feed Often
Your dog or cat will be suffering hunger pangs during their new diet. You can help your pet adjust by feeding him more often. Divide his daily food allowance into four or five small servings, and provide each serving to your dog or cat every few hours.

No Snacks
Dog biscuits and cat treats, unless specially made, are high in fat and low on nutrients. Most veterinarians agree that once your dog or cat is fully grown and trained, treats are an unnecessary part of daily life, and do nothing but add empty calories. Try slimming down the number of treats you provide your pet or switch to a more nutritious, high fiber treat that is more accommodating to your animal's new diet.

Trick Your Pet
Pets naturally look at how much food is provided them. You can trick your pet into thinking he's receiving the same amount of kibble daily by dividing his food into several bowls and spreading them around his feeding area.

Go Natural
Pet treats and foods don't have to come pre-packaged. Try whipping up your own. Most pets love people food and will enjoy treats of green beans, raw carrots or unbuttered popcorn.

While no one enjoys dieting, cats are known to be extra fussy while adapting to a new feeding schedule. Your cat may whine and howl excessively and make life rather difficult. Dieting cats are prone to dig through garbage and jump on to tables and counters for food. Watch your cat closely and try to distract him with a game or playtime.

Try Garlic
Believe it or not, garlic can be used as an effective weight-loss tool. One of garlic's properties is that is helps to regulate liver and gallbladder function. Adding a small amount of garlic (one half clove for dogs, one quarter clove for cats) to their daily food will help your pet's digestive system. Larger pets can eat as many as two cloves of garlic per day. Crush garlic into a fine mix and add to food at will.

Feed Separately
If you happen to have one overweight dog or cat and another younger animal who doesn't suffer the same problem, be sure to separate the animals during feeding times. Dogs and cats share dishes, especially when one dish has a familiar scent or food. Making a special feeding room for your overweight animals will give him added attention and help distract him from the fact that he may be receiving a smaller portion of food.

Problem Eaters
Overeating in animals can be a signal to visit your veterinarian. There are a number of conditions from worms to life threatening diseases like diabetes that could be responsible for your pet's new appetite. When in doubt, see a medical professional.