Philly's pooches are packing a paunch!

Philly folks love their pooches so much the city is starting to remind me of Paris. Everywhere you go these days, Philly folks have their adoring pooches in tow. Much like Paris, in Philly dogs are now welcome in coffee shops, markets, and even retailers like Lowes.

Admittedly, Philly hasn't gone totally Parisian style. Dogs are not yet welcome in Philly restaurants. But I'm sure that's on the horizon.

Unlike Parisian pooches though, one distinguishing characteristic about Philly pooches is their unmistakable paunches.

That's right: Many Philly pooches are just, well, overweight. Much like their human companions, the dogs are carrying too many extra pounds.

So what, you say?

According to the Association for Pet Obesity and Prevention, a whopping 54 percent of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. Much like us, our pets are facing an obesity epidemic. Obesity among dogs is one of the most significant health problems  veterinarians see these days.

Did you know Fido can get the same diseases we get?  Like us, our overweight or obese dogs may be at increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and kidney and liver disease.

For example, an extra five pounds on a dog that should weight 17 pounds is the equivalent of an extra 50 pounds on a person who should weigh 170 pounds.

Much like ourselves, our dogs are just consuming too many calories and getting little to no exercise. In the old days, dogs were frequently outdoors, getting plenty of exercise. Nowadays, we treat our dogs like family members; even the dog is chilling, channel surfing, and woofing down snacks.

If you suspect your dog is overweight or obese, first go to a veterinarian for a checkup and diagnosis. Don't put your dog on a diet until you get proper recommendations from a veterinarian.

Is your dog potentially at risk?  Here's a quick checklist to see:

  • If you can't feel your dog's ribs, then Houston, there's a problem. Get to the veterinarian!  The veterinarian will do an assessment and determine whether your pet is overweight (10 percent over ideal) or obese (20 percent over ideal).
  • Ask yourself how much daily exercise your dog is getting (and you, too!).
  • Is anyone else (say, maybe the children?) sneaking extra snacks to the dog?
  • Are you serving your dog more than the recommended serving size? (By the way, what about you? Are you eating the recommended serving size?)

Reward your pet without food:

  • I know it sounds impossible, but you can actually reward your pet without food. Our dogs are social creatures, and they require plenty of love and affection. More than anything, your dog wants your love. So don't substitute your affection with food. Go ahead and give your pooch some extra TLC. You'll also lower your blood pressure in the process.
  • How about a new toy? Dogs like new toys, just like we do.
  • Dogs love running (and walking). Go on, get that Frisbee out and enjoy more of the great outdoors with man's best friend.  Your dog will love it, and so will you.

But hey, don't take my word for it — ask your veterinarian about the consequences of being overweight and obesity on your dog's health.

Dogs demand a lot of love, time, patience, responsibility, and commitment. Be sure to get your dog to the vet regularly for checkups and shots. It's also important that your dog receive regular and proper grooming.

Be good to yourself and your dog by ensuring a healthier life with daily exercise and good nutrition for you both.