This article appears in Family Magazine January 2018.

Just like their owners, pets in America are increasingly becoming obese. About 53 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats are overweight or obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity.

That’s news to most pet owners. Ninety percent of pet owners the organization surveyed did not recognize their pets were too flabby to be considered healthy.

The problem is getting worse, too. Data from Nationwide, a provider of pet insurance, reveals that pet obesity is on the rise for the sixth straight year. The boost in total obesity-related claims signifies a 23 percent growth over the last three years.

Just like in humans, pet obesity increases the risk of preventable health issues.

“Obesity predisposes pets to a number of serious health conditions including arthritis/joint pain with decreased mobility, endocrine disorders such as diabetes, skin problems due to excess skin folds and decreased life expectancy,” said Leni Kaplan, a companion animal veterinarian at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, New York.

Tips for keeping your pets healthy:

Portion control

“One of the easiest ways to prevent obesity or promote weight loss is to employ portion control; using an 8-ounce measuring cup is a must,” Kaplan said.

Pre-prepare meals

“It is helpful and convenient if owners pre-prepare their pets’ food portions during the weekend for each day of the week into baggies or small Tupperware containers. Then, they just grab that day’s ration of food and divide it into meals without worrying about having to measure it during the busy work week,” Kaplan said.

Beware of treats

“Owners should also pay attention to how many treats the pet is receiving on a daily basis. Many pet treats are high in calories and can really lead to significant weight gain. Dry kibble (part of the day’s food ration) can be used as treats as well as vegetables such as carrots, celery, zucchini, cucumbers and green beans,” Kaplan said.