Maybe you think Fido is just adorably chubby, but he really could be part of an alarming trend. "According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), 52.6 percent of dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese," says Ava Olsen, brand manager for Charlee Bear Products.

1. Vet the risks

As with humans, excess weight can have serious consequences. "The biggest risks associated with pet obesity are for arthritis and joint problems, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, urinary tract infections, cancer, skin disease, anesthesia complications and pancreatitis," says Dr. Cristine Hayes, a veterinarian for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

Even more upsetting is what being "extra cuddly" can mean for your pet when the additional pounds aren't just a phase. "Obesity can ultimately lead to a shortened lifespan," Hayes adds.

2. Unleash the leash

The good news is that there are a number of things pet owners can do to prevent pet obesity. A good first stop is the vet. "At a minimum, pets should be examined yearly by a veterinarian to monitor the pet’s body weight and check for underlying health conditions, such as thyroid or adrenal gland disorders," Hayes says. 

"Fifty-two percent of dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese.

Exercise is also critical in fighting pet obesity. "When I pick up my dog's leash and ask if he wants to go for a walk, he becomes a bundle of joy and excitement," Olsen says. "We need to spend more time walking with our dogs."

3. Treat them right

Perhaps the most obvious place to make changes, though, is in a pet's diet. Hayes recommends using a measuring cup to determine how much food to give a pet, and adds that each pet should be fed from its own bowl. "High-fat diets should be avoided in pets with low energy requirements," she says. 

That doesn't mean owners have to eliminate treats, which should be a relief to pet owners. Food rewards are an important tool for reinforcing behaviors, general training and strengthening the human-pet bond. The key is to give pets lower calorie treats they still enjoy: a simple change that has become easier to make.

"The world of dog treat choices has exploded, following the trends in human food," says Olsen. "There are more choices, and more healthy choices, available, which is great."