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Did you know that the majority of household pets in the U.S. are overweight? Studies have shown that 53 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats are either overweight or obese. Those percentages have increased in recent years, with a whopping 99 million pets now living a dangerously unhealthy lifestyle.

Responsible and loving owners need to pay attention to the health and fitness needs of their pets to ensure they live long, happy lives. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) offers tips to help parents and children understand how they can help their beloved dogs and cats shed a few pounds and maintain a healthy weight.

Here are the top 6 tips to keep pets in shape:

1.       Limit the amount of food you give them.  Just like with humans, it’s important to control your pet’s food portions. Pay attention to the instructions on your pet’s food label and feed your furry friend according to the recommended amount of food per serving.

2.        Avoid giving too many treats. All pets love their special foods and treats, and it’s hard to say no to those big eyes and wagging tails!  While you want to reward your pet for good behavior with a tasty snack, it’s important to remember that those treats are usually packed with calories. The occasional treat is fine, but avoid the temptation to overindulge your pet.

3.       Never give your pet people food.  Certain human foods, including chocolate, cheese, and onions can be lethal for dogs. Other foods, including grapes and certain nuts, can also do damage to a pet’s health and even increase their weight. So fight the urge to give in to the begging for people food and say no.

4.       Have them consume food slowly. It’s a scientific fact that both pets and humans put on more weight if they speed through their meals. To keep your pet from gorging on their food, try and give them their meals in smaller increments over a period of time. This will help regulate their metabolism and help them fight off additional weight gain.

5.       Exercise. Lots of it.  Simply put, your pet will be healthier and in better shape with increased exercise. While it’s easy to walk dogs or have them run outside, it’s also crucial to keep cats active. You can keep your feline in “purrfect” shape just by playing with them from time to time.

6.       Vets are your pets’ best friend. As a responsible pet parent, you should take your dog or cat to the vet at least once a year. Nobody is more qualified to help you keep your pet in top form than your family vet!

The AVMA has been making sure our pets get the best care for over 150 years, and you can find more great tips about keeping pets happy and healthy at

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Help Your Pet Stay Trim & Fit This Summer  was originally published on