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Pet Obesity Epidemic: Australia's Cats And Dogs Are Getting Dangerously Fat

As Australia grapples with an obesity epidemic, excessive weight gain is also a problem affecting almost half the nation's pets.

Animal care experts have warned that treating cats and dogs 'like little humans' is leaving them dangerously fat.

Pet-related claims for obesity-related conditions such as diabetes, glucose intolerance and tracheal collapse have soared by 100 percent over the past five years, according to pet insurance underwriter PetSure.

The PetSure data suggests cat and dog obesity contributes to a range of other associated claim conditions, including osteoarthritis, a spinal condition called Invertebral Disc Disease, cardiac and respiratory disorders and some cancers.

Adorable Lab Ned has struggled with his weight. Image: Supplied

PetSure's Oliver Conradi said the rise in claims for such conditions comes down to owners "humanising" their pets.

"Pet owners are increasingly treating their fur babies like little humans, which reflects the wonderful bond they have, but this treatment can extend to their pet’s diet and the quantity of food they eat," he said.

10 daily Lifestyle Editor Valentina Todoroska said she has always found it hard to keep her miniature Daschund at her recommended weight.

Maple the miniature Daschund is considered overweight by her vet. Image: Supplied

But she acknowledged treating two-year-old Maple "more like a fur baby" and a "member of the family" than a dog has contributed to her weight gain.

"Each time I take her to the vet they remind me she is overweight even though she is on diet food and I try to restrict what foods and snacks she's given," Todoroska said. 

"I know it would be better for her health, particularly given her breed is susceptible to back issues which are exacerbated by their weight, if she lost a couple of kilos."

Dr Mark Lawrie, from Sydney University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital, told 10 daily owners can often fall into the trap of overestimating how much to feed their pets.

Image: Getty

"There's sometimes the danger of thinking, 'I would normally eat a plateful of something, I'll give him [the dog] a quarter' when the reality is the differential weight is a tenth," he said.

It's a concerning trend that Lawrie said has picked up over several decades, in line with human's eating habits.

While younger animals are active and fast-growing, he said they tend to put on weight around the two-year mark.

"It's a very big problem ... we see the sorts of things we see with humans, particularly arthritis and diabetes," he said.

Image: Getty

Diabetes is far more common in pets who are obese or who have a poor diet. According to Lawrie, one in 200 dogs will develop the condition, compared to one in 400 cats.

PetSure's data claims otherwise, revealing a slightly higher rate of diabetes in Aussie cats over dogs.

Other related diseases include pancreatitis and fatty liver, which Lawrie said is a major problem among cats and can lead to death.

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Across Australia, there are about five million dogs that are kept as pets and, as man's best friend, they hold a very important place in every household.

Lawrie urged owners to consider their pet's health and quality of life as they would their own.

"It's hard to get weight off -- we know this as humans. But it can be done, and we have a lot more control over our dogs and cats," he said. 

Image: Getty

As with humans, exercise and diet are key to preventing and managing weight gain.

"Measure their weight, and keep it well charted, and measure the amount of food you're giving them," Lawrie said.

Conradi suggested owners whose pets are already overweight should speak to their vet about changing to a low calorie or weight loss diet.