ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – Obesity is an epidemic plaguing many throughout the United States – many pets, that is.

As part of National Pet Obesity Awareness Day, officials and experts with the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention and BluePearl Veterinary Partners – who have offices in Atlanta – are raising awareness about pets with pounds to lose.

According to a press release obtained by CBS Atlanta, over half of America’s pets have a weight problem to some degree. Every year, the organization uses Oct. 9 as a day to promote awareness of the issue.

“According to last year’s survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 55 percent of cats and dogs in the U.S. are considered overweight or obese, while the 2011 survey showed an estimated 54 percent overweight or obese,” the release stated.

Experts added of the risks, “In addition to a decreased life-expectancy, animals that are overweight are at risk for cranial cruciate ligament injury, heart and respiratory disease, insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes, as well as osteoarthritis.”

Veterinary experts, including BluePearl’s chief medical officer, Dr. Neil Shaw, are concerned.

“Pet obesity is one of the most preventable health problems facing pets,” Shaw was quoted as saying. “Controlling the amount of food your pet receives, ensuring your pet gets plenty of exercise and eliminating table scraps are the best ways to ensure a pet stays in shape.”

In order to monitor the situation, officials at the Association are asking pet owners to fill out a survey regarding the weight and health of their pets.

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