THE BLOG

How Can We End the Pet Obesity Crisis?

17/02/2016 13:32 GMT | Updated 16/02/2017 10:12 GMT

Pet obesity has hit the headlines once again as we've unveiled new research revealing the foods some owners are feeding their pets.

PDSA's latest Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report has found that for some pets, their daily diet contains treats, scraps and leftovers, takeaway and, more worryingly, even some foods that are toxic to our pets like human chocolate and alcohol. Levels of pet obesity are rising and our overweight furry friends are just as likely to suffer from the same obesity related health problems as humans.

I was on BBC Radio 5 live last week discussing the issue with presenter Nicky Campbell and during the discussion he asked whether allowing a pet to become obese was a form of cruelty. I explained that I've never seen a case of obesity with a deliberate intention to cause suffering. In fact many of the overweight pets I've seen have been the exact opposite, with owners showing their love for their pets by treating them and feeding them too much as a sign of affection.

Similarly I think it's likely that many pet owners think nothing of giving the odd treat or some leftovers here and there as they don't believe it will do any harm. Just like us, if given as an occasional treat, and taken out of their daily calorie allowance, for some pets these extra treats might be fine. But when you consider that giving a dog a packet of crisps is like us eating two steak pies, it's easy to see how over time this could lead to a huge gain in weight!

As a vet I've seen my fair share of podgy pets and it appears my colleagues have too, with four out of five vet professionals reporting that they've seen an increase in levels of pet obesity over the past two years. Around 5.5 million pets in the UK are being fed treats every day, and over 4 million dogs, cats and rabbits are fed scraps as their main meal. I'd love for pet owners to honestly look at what they're feeding their pet and if they are a healthy size.

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Pet obesity is a growing issue

Vets everywhere are here to help. If you're worried your pet might be overweight or have questions about what you should be feeding them, ask your local vet for advice and make a change today. We all love our pets and if they're overweight this can shorten their life expectancy, so by keeping your pet a healthy weight you can enjoy their company for longer.

One way we're trying to tackle the pet obesity crisis here at PDSA is through our Pet Fit Club campaign - a six-month diet and exercise programme we run every year for pets who need a helping hand to lose the pounds they've piled on. The life changing transformations in previous years have been incredible.

Over the past decade we've helped over 100 animals lose more than 63 stone through Pet Fit Club and encouraged thousands more owners to make positive changes to their pet's lifestyle.

If you've got a pet who could do with shifting the pounds why not enter them? Visit www.pdsa.org.uk/petfitclub for more information.