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Obesity in pets is common in many countries. Rates of overweight and obesity in dogs in the United States ranges from 23% to 41% with about 5.1% obese. Rates of obesity in cats was slightly higher at 6.4%. In Australia, the rate of obesity among dogs in a veterinary setting has been found to be 7.6%. The risk of obesity in dogs but not cats is related to whether or not their owners are obese.
Pet obesity has been enough of a concern that Pfizer developed, and obtained US Food and Drug Administration approval in 2007 for a drug, named dirlotapide (marketed as Slentrol), to treat dog obesity. However, concerns have since been raised, since 2010, about adverse effects that might more strongly affect particular breeds.
Multiple pet owners have been prosecuted for cruelty to animals due to their dangerously obese dogs. Two British brothers were cited in 2006 for cruelty and neglect of their chocolate Labrador retriever, "who was allegedly made so obese by his owners that he 'looked like a seal' and could barely waddle a few steps". Cats have also been found to suffer from morbid obesity.
The primary reasons for obesity in pets is over eating and lack of physical exercise. In wealthier countries, many can afford to give their pets excessive amounts of food. Owners view food as a way to reward and treat their pets, which contributes to their overeating habits. Modern day pet foods are a higher quality food, and some pets are prone to gorging themselves to the limit of their stomach capacity, a behavior developed through evolution. In addition, pets, especially dogs, are often not allowed to free roam as they did in the past. Pets confined to a house or small yard, or who are not regularly walked or played with, are more prone to obesity.. Research conducted by the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition and others has established safe weight levels and strategies for maintaining healthy body mass in cats and dogs.
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