Minnesota is always getting noticed for having some of the healthiest, most physically fit people in the country. But apparently we're not taking care of our pets as well as we're taking care of ourselves.
Somehow, our state has the fattest pets in the U.S. – we're talking both cats and dogs. That's according to Banfield Pet Hospital's 2017 State of Pet Health report.
The report found that 41 percent of dogs and 46 percent of cats in Minnesota were rated by veterinarians as overweight or obese. That's more than any other state.
Nebraska came in second place for both species, with 39 percent of dogs and 43 percent of cats being overweight or obese.
What's maybe even more surprising is that the states with higher human obesity rates have some of the lowest pet obesity rates.
Take for example, Louisiana, which has the highest adult obesity rate in the country, at 36.2 percent (compared to Minnesota, which has the 13th lowest adult obesity rate in the U.S. with 26.2 percent.)
Yet Louisiana's pet obesity rates are about half of Minnesota's – 21 percent for dogs and 25 percent for cats.
Banfield told GoMN states with the most overweight humans had some of the highest rates of pets with parasites – that could be one reason pets in those states have trouble keeping weight on and thus did not contribute to the overweight pet population in that state.
So it seems Minnesotans are making sure our pets get regular check ups. But they're still a bunch of unhealthy fatties.
Sure, fat pets can be super cute. But excess weight can lead a variety of disorders, such as osteoarthritis, cardiorespiratory problems, diabetes, higher anesthetic risk, and reduced life expectancy. Plus having a fat pet can cost you a lot of money in vet bills.
So what are we doing wrong?
Part of the problem with pet obesity is that fat pets have become the new normal, so owners underestimate the true body condition of their pet, the hospital says.
A vet checking out your dog or cat's physique wants to be able to see the pet's waistline and feel (not see) their ribs.
Overfeeding is another big problem, and Banfield says pet owners may not realize how quickly calories add up, especially when it comes to "human" food.
An ounce of cheese is 114 calories – or about a third of what a small dog needs in an entire day, the hospital says. And since cats are usually less active than dogs, they don't need as many calories.
If you can't say no to your pets begging for human food, they recommend reducing the amount of food offered, and giving them non-edible rewards – like belly rubs or toys.
On top of eating too much, a lot of pets aren't getting enough exercise.
And then there are some things that cause weight gain in pets that you can't control, like genetics, breeds, certain diseases, and metabolism slowing with age.
Overall, about 1 in 3 dogs and cats in America is overweight, and the numbers continue to grow, Banfield says.