According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, over half the dogs and cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Whether the result of overfeeding, a lack of exercise, or both, when our dogs and cats are overweight they become susceptible to serious health conditions that can harm their quality of life — and even shorten it altogether. That’s why regular visits to your veterinarian are so important. Your vet will help monitor your pet’s weight and prescribe the right feeding regimen to help your fur buddy avoid these 5 obesity-related diseases. Osteoarthritis This degenerative joint condition develops when cartilage (the flexible tissue at the ends of bones) wears down, which causes chronic pain and makes movement difficult. When your dog or cat carries extra weight — even 1 or 2 pounds — it puts extra stress on the weight-bearing joints in their legs that causes permanent damage to the cartilage. Fat cells also produce destructive chemicals called adipocytokines that harm all joints — not just the ones designed to carry weight. There’s no way to cure osteoarthritis once it develops, which is why it’s so important to make sure your pet doesn’t become overweight. Diabetes Diabetes is a disease that affects the body’s ability to process glucose, a type of sugar found in food. Glucose is the main source of fuel for the body’s tissues and cells — it’s absorbed into the blood during the digestive process after every meal with the help of a chemical produced in the pancreas called insulin. Diabetes affects the body’s ability to produce insulin. That leads to dangerously high levels of glucose in the blood, which can cause a variety of serious health problems, including a shortened lifespan. Obesity has been shown to cause diabetes in pets — as well as a similar condition in dogs known as insulin resistance — both of which require constant treatment once they develop. Helping to prevent these serious diseases is another reason to make sure your dog or cat doesn’t become overweight. High Blood Pressure Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is another disease that can result when pets become overweight, since the heart must work overtime to pump additional blood to the extra tissue. Over time, high blood pressure can damage not only the heart, but other organs including the kidneys and brain as well. Helping to ensure your pet doesn’t develop hypertension is one more reason why keeping them at a healthy weight is so important. Cancer Medical researchers have been studying the connection between obesity and cancer for the past 30 years, and at this point at least 13 types of cancer are linked to obesity in humans. In fact, the National Cancer Institute estimates that the combination of obesity and physical inactivity could be responsible for 25 to 30% of major cancers. When it comes to our pets, current evidence suggests that overweight dogs and cats may also be at greater risk for developing cancer — which is yet another reason to make sure they maintain a healthy weight. Respiratory Problems Carrying extra weight around the chest and midsection can compress your pet’s lungs and make it much more difficult for them to breathe freely. That can make it hard for them to catch their breath during physical activity and cause excessive panting as they struggle to get more oxygen to their lungs. Obesity can also lead to conditions such as collapsing trachea, laryngeal paralysis and disrupted sleep — all of which you can help prevent by keeping your pet at a healthy weight. Doing your part to make sure your fur buddy doesn’t become overweight is one of the best ways to help ensure that they live a long, happy life. It starts with feeding your dog or cat the proper portions, and includes regular exercise and limiting treats. Regular wellness visits to your veterinarian so they can keep track of your pet’s weight and prescribe the proper diet are also a must. While you’re there, you can also ask your veterinarian about convenient Home Delivery of your pet’s food so you’ll never have to worry about lugging heavy bags back from the store or running out again!