By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesotans pride themselves on being active and fit, but studies show the same doesn’t hold true for our pets.

A Banfield Pet Health reports shows that Minnesota has the highest percentage of overweight dogs and cats in the nation. The research is based on health check-ups of more than 2.5 million dogs and 500,000 cats in the United States.

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John Lauritsen shows us why our pets have fallen behind, and what pet owners can do to help.

“Buddy came in literally so overweight that he couldn’t get around comfortably,” Dr. Graham Brayshaw said.

The tale of Buddy the black lab shows just how easy it is for man’s best friend to get a little too friendly with food. When he was surrendered to the Humane Society, Buddy was more than 100 pounds overweight.

“Not only does weight add extra pressure to your joints, but it changes how your body works. You get more inflammation, your metabolism lowers,” Brayshaw said.

The Golden Valley Humane Society actually has an entire area designated for overweight animals. And it’s not just dogs. An 11-year-old cat named Buttercup weighs in at 18 jolly pounds — nearly double what she should weigh.

“She’s kind of sausage-like is the best term we are dealing with,” Brayshaw said. “From the top you should have a nice crest where her spine is, but she is a little flat from having extra fat laying on top of there.”

Research shows that about 40% of our dogs and about 45% of our cats are obese. We can blame our long, cold winters for some of it.

“You can get your dogs outside but it’s nowhere near as easy when it’s negative-something outside, and really get that activity with your dogs,” Brayshaw said.

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Another reason is that we don’t have as many homeless pets, so animals are typically well fed. And Minnesota Nice doesn’t help. Good intentions can lead to bad health.

“Parents living at home, or kids knowing where the food and treats are kept, then you have so many hands in the pie and they are being fed from all kinds of different sources and you don’t know who is feeding what,” Brayshaw said.

Just like people, veterinarians say intake and activity levels need to be controlled. Instead of giving a cat a full cup of dried food, they probably only need half that.

It may be the same for dogs depending on the breed. You should be able to feel an animal’s ribs without feeling extra fat.

“I left him with my parents when I moved out and he got very, very fat,” Sorensen said.

Sorensen said her cat was 8 pounds overweight and on his way to being a diabetic before she put him on a special diet and used food puzzles to make him work for his meals.

“I think a lot of people feel bad about limiting their cat’s food but that is in the best interest to make sure they are at a healthy weight,” Sorensen said.

As far Buddy goes, he became a bit of an inspiration. Thanks to a better diet and long walks, he lost 100 pounds and was eventually adopted by a family near Duluth. He’s back to chasing squirrels. Buddy’s half the dog he used to be, but twice as happy.

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“Anytime we are dealing with weight loss we want slow, gradual weight loss. It’s not a problem that pops up overnight. You don’t get overweight overnight. You also aren’t going to fix things over night as well,” Brayshaw said.

John Lauritsen