A new report paints an alarming picture about the health of pets in this country, showing a rising number of dogs and cats suffering from diabetes and dental disease.
The report was released by the nation's largest chain of veterinary clinics, Banfield Pet Hospital.
It found that there is an increase in diabetes linked to overweight pets. Among dogs, diabetes is up 32 percent in the last four years. In cats, there's a 16 percent increase in diabetes cases.
Five-year-old Lexie is a Pit bull mix who now weighs about 56 pounds. She used to be around 45 pounds, until her owner, Tracey Sanguiliano, became pregnant. Sanguiliano, of Scotch Plains, New Jersey, says "I didn't get to take her out for her long walks like we used to do."
Sanguiliano took Lexie to see Dr. Edgardo Ortiz, Banfield's medical director for New York City and northern New Jersey. Ortiz described Lexie as "Overweight. So what we're trying to do is prevent diseases like diabetes mellitus, heart disease." Ortiz prescribed more exercise and better nutrition, including portion control.
Besides not getting enough exercise, Dr. Ortiz says people tend to overfeed their pets, ignoring the recommended amounts listed on food labels. Sanguiliano agreed that it's easy to overfeed "because you know..they feel good and they're happy when you give them a treat."
Dr. Ortiz added "it's very dangerous to give table food. Table food can cause any type of diabetes in the future. It can cause heart problems."
Banfield's report also revealed that 78 percent of dogs and 68 percent of cats have dental disease. Dr. Ortiz recommends a dental cleaning by a veterinarian at least once a year.
The high cost of vet visits may be one reason why some illnesses are on the rise. At the Banfield Pet Hospital on Broadway in Manhattan's NoHo neighborhood, a wellness plan covers basic preventive care and costs about $700 a year. If your animal becomes sick, pet health insurance can help, but make sure you know what's covered.
As for Lexie, Dr. Ortiz says she's "already lost about eleven pounds, but we have about ten more pounds to decrease." These days, she's doing more exercise, including playing with Tracey's one year old son, Lucas.
"Once we get Lexie's weight in check, Lucas will have a lot of years with Lexie running around the backyard. So we're looking forward to that," Tracey said.