More than half of all American dogs are overweight, warns the Association for Pet Obesity and Prevention, and vets across the country are increasingly worried about the growing animal health problem of pet obesity, The New York Times reports.

Just like people, dogs that pack on extra pounds are at a higher risk of diabetes, arthritis and high blood pressure, as well as kidney and respiratory diseases. And experts say in most cases, their owners are to blame.

“This is a human problem,” said Ernie Ward, a veterinarian in Calabash, North Carolina, and founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. “No pet is making a sandwich and eating a bowl of ice cream at midnight.”

So how do you help get your dog back down to a healthy size?

First, find out if your pup is actually overweight by running your hand over the dog’s ribs. This part of your pet’s body should feel no more padded than the back of your own hand. If you feel like Fido’s too fat, there are two crucial steps to take.

Number one, limit your canine’s caloric intake. Find out from your vet how many calories your pet needs each day guided by its size and breed. For example, an active adult Lab needs 1,000 calories each day. Then, buy your dog a brand of store-bought pet food with the endorsement of the Association of American Feed Control Officials. (This organization develops ideal nutritional standards for pet foods.) Experts also suggest creating a more natural, lean diet for dogs by giving them food that fits into “the prey model.” The ideal menu for this model consists of raw meaty bones and organs or raw chicken pieces.

In addition, whatever doggie meals you prepare, stick to a strict feeding regimen. That means holding back on high-carb treats and biscuits that dogs don’t generally need. What’s more, canine snacks should only account for about 10 percent of the total calories your pet eats a day. And, please, don’t slip your dog “people food.” Human meals are far too high in calories than what’s recommended for dogs. As Fido slims down, keep the weight loss slow–your dog should lose only 1 to 2 percent of its body weight per week.

The second step is to put Fido through workouts. As with humans, diet without exercise just doesn’t cut it. Dogs need to keep it moving multiple times a day. To ensure they’re physically and mentally engaged, choose activities that focus on them obeying commands. (And, no, just allowing your dog to run around in the backyard doesn’t count!)

Certainly, challenging a dog with runs, jumps, swims and walks is a much better way to show affection than tossing your furry friends quick snacks that could endanger their lives.

And, yes, walking with your dog is great for you too! Just one 30-minute walk each day can take you miles away from the risk of heart attack and stroke. Click here to read more.