There's little sadder than a scrawny animal -- but vets say many pet-owners have gone too far in the other direction, leaving more than half of our household dogs and cats overweight. And cute as those "fluffy" critters may be, the extra pounds simply aren't good for them.

The fifth annual study done by the Association for Pet Obesity (yes, there's an association for that) found that 88.4 million American pets are overweight or obese. But what's worse is that many owners have what vets call a "fat pet gap," meaning they see their critters as being at a normal weight when they simply aren't.

And since obesity in animals carries the same health risks found in obese humans -- high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems, kidney disease and shortened life expectancy -- we could be literally killing our beloved companions with food.

Vets say store-bought, calorie-packed treats are a big part of the problem, and they recommend using fresh vegetables as rewards instead. (But good luck getting your cat to eat carrots.)

[via CBS Philly]