Tip: Read this article on dog obesity for more information on dog weight issues.
However, there’s good news on the horizon for 18 of the UK’s podgiest pets. PDSA has announced the line-up of pet finalists in its annual slimming competition – Pet Fit Club – who are about to start their journey to becoming healthier, happier and shadows of their former selves.
The contestants – 11 dogs, 5 cats and 2 rabbits – are currently carrying a combined excess weight of over 24 stone which equates to over 380 tins of dog food, the weight of 35 average sized cats or the weight of 50 Yorkshire Terriers. All of the finalists fall into the category of obese or morbidly obese and desperately need to lose weight to improve their quality of life. Pets carrying 20% or more of their ideal body weight are classed as obese, while pets carrying over 50% are deemed morbidly obese.
PDSA vets are guiding the owners of each of these supersized pets on their journey to slim down and shape-up with a balanced diet and tailored exercise plan.
Sean Wensley, PDSA Senior Veterinary Surgeon, said: “Excess pounds can contribute to a number of serious health conditions and, sadly, it does reduce life expectancy. But the good news is that it’s never too late to make positive changes to a pet’s diet and lifestyle.”
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This year’s 18 finalists include a line-up of pets who have become accustomed to a variety of unhealthy foods including a ‘custard cream loving’ dog called Alfie; a 10.2kg Scottish cat called Maverick who is 85% overweight; food thief, Deco – a canine who likes cake but is carrying 57% extra body weight; Romeo the Labrador who has a penchant for roast dinners who is 47% overweight.
The diets for the finalists are being supplied by Hill’s pet food and Burgess Pet Care. The overall winner of the competition will receive a pet-friendly holiday worth £500 with the Four Seasons hotel in Perthshire.
Pet obesity revealed:
· Cats don’t fare much better, with PDSA data showing that around one in four are overweight (approximately 3 million).*
· Rabbits have the worst diets compared to dogs and cats with 42% being fed too little hay every day, and 49% being fed rabbit muesli (a mix of seeds and flakes) which should not be fed as it can contribute to obesity and is linked with painful dental disease.**
· Overweight pets are at risk of serious health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis, and have a lower life expectancy than healthy pets.
· Over-feeding treats and providing the incorrect diet can cause pet obesity. 90% of dog owners admit to feeding treats such as cheese, crisps, cakes, biscuits, toast and takeaways.**
PDSA’s pet obesity advice clinic – top tips from PDSA Senior Vet, Sean Wensley:
· Prevention is better than cure: Preventing obesity is much easier than getting a pet to lose weight. A good diet when a pet is young is essential – fat puppies and kittens are more likely to become fat adult pets due to the number of fat cells they produce while growing.
· Cut out the treats: feeding a pet even a small treat can significantly increase their daily calorie intake. If you give your pet a treat, perhaps for training purposes, reduce the amount of food given in their main meal on that day.
· Balanced diet: Weight loss requires a combination of the right diet and the right amount of exercise. Many owners feed ‘by eye’ and it’s easy to accidentally overfeed pets, so use scales to weigh out the daily food allowance each morning. Follow packet feeding guidelines or ask your vet about correct amounts.
· Regular exercise: Build up activity levels gradually, as a pet shouldn’t go from couch potato to marathon runner overnight. Encouraging play and games is a great way to increase a pet’s activity levels, but every pet is different so ask your vet about how much exercise your pet needs.
· Seek veterinary advice: PDSA advises owners to speak to their vet before making major changes to their pet’s diet or activity levels. In some pets, such as cats and rabbits, rapid weight loss can be dangerous or even fatal, so it’s important for a vet or vet nurse to oversee the weight loss to ensure it is gradual and safe.
· Learn about a pet’s healthy shape: Many owners don’t know what a healthy shape is for their pet and may see their pet as simply ‘cuddly’, not realising that they are overweight. Owners should ask their vet, or visit the PDSA website for advice and guidance on a correct body shape for their pet at www.pdsa.org.uk/obesity.
· Take action now: Some owners are worried about seeking advice for their overweight pet for fear of being prosecuted. However, cases of prosecution for pet obesity are very rare and are usually a result of owners continually ignoring advice from their vet over a period of time.