(WXTX) - Kyle Willian has been bringing his four dogs, Sherman, Bailey, Tater, and Reggie to For Paws Boutique in Auburn almost every day of the week for 13 years.

"Dachshunds tend to get a little bit chunky and also the Min Pins that we have. Both are prone to get hefty if you let them, so you kind of have to watch them all the time," says Willian.

When the eldest, Sherman, starting packing on the pounds, For Paw's doggie daycare program was a no-brainer solution to help him shed the extra weight.

"He came at one point because he was overweight and he's got three siblings that also come and they're a little on the chubby side, but they get to be active all day. It's much better than being sedentary at home," explains For Paws owner, Rebekah Perry.

Separated by size, dozens of dogs spend eight to ten hours a day running around, playing, and interacting with each other.

"Our daycare is whenever they're here in the morning until whenever they go home, they're playing. They don't get stuck in a kennel or put in the back or anything like that. They play all the time as long as they're good with other dogs," says Perry.

Doggie daycares like Four Paws help the number one medial problem facing our pets today.

In the United States, 55 percent of cats and dogs are considered overweight or obese and it is an epidemic that tends to begin with their owners.

Dr. Robert Lofton, Assistant Clinical Professor at Auburn University's School of Veterinarian Medicine, says the hospital sees this problem every day.

"The normal amount of body fat for a dog or cat is between 20 and 24 percent, so that would put us in the ideal weight, and if you were to pet the dog you would be able to feel on the ribs very easily. Along over the chest there is a little bit of a waistline if you're looking from the top and there is a little bit of an indention underneath the bottom. They look like a coke bottle when they are the appropriate weight," explains Lofton.

A long list of health dangers comes with excess weight and it's not a matter of if, but when these complications will strike.

"Because of the extra weight they carry, it makes them more susceptible to orthopedic problems. It makes them more apt to have conditions like diabetes or, or fatty liver conditions that occurs in cats. That extra weight is creating lots of problems. It will actually shorten the life of the pet when they are overweight," says Lofton.

Prissy, an 11-year-old Labrador Retriever, turned to the experts at the Auburn University vet school for help when her weight got out of control.

Overtime and with the help of various treatments like the treadmill and hydrotherapy, Prissy has lost 10 pounds and is on her way toward a healthy weight goal.

Before turning to experts there are many steps you can take at home to help your pets. First, which also may be the most difficult, acknowledge there is a problem.

Next, increase their exercise, and lastly, cut the calories. Break treats in half and use a measuring cup at meal time.

"Studies tell us most people don't measure their food for their pet and then they may not know how much to feed their pet," explains Lofton. "So it would be appropriate to use the right food, know how much you should feed and use the measuring cup in how much you feed."

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