Treats, table scraps and lack of exercise are fuelling a pet obesity time bomb, leading vet charity PDSA has warned.
The charity’s PAW Report suggests that 5.7 million UK pets (3.4 million dogs, 2 million cats and 260,000 rabbits) are fed treats every day. Owners admitted ‘treating’ their pets to a range of dangerous foods including crisps, cake, cheese, chips and takeaways.
A further 3.9 million pets (2.4 million dogs, 1.5 million cats and 30,000 rabbits) are also fed table scraps or leftovers as their main meals, further adding to the weighty problem.
PDSA vet Rebecca Ashman explains the reasons behind owner behaviour: “We love our pets and owners often enjoy showing their love by giving food. Nearly half (44 percent) of owners told us that they give treats because they believe it makes the pets happy, and over a quarter (27 percent) do it to make themselves feel good. And 13 percent confess to giving treats because their pets beg, puppy dog eyes are hard to resist.
“Treats and human food can be high in fat and sugars which are bad for pets’ waistlines and teeth. Some foods, like chocolate, are poisonous to pets and can even be fatal.”
The PAWS report found that 1.6 million dogs (17 percent) aren’t walked daily. Some of these are never walked because their owners mistakenly believe that playing in the garden is a suitable substitute. Cats are missing out too: according to PDSA research 440,000 cats (4 percent of the population) don’t exercise daily– including running climbing or playing.
The charity estimates that a third of dogs and a quarter of cats are now overweight or obese.
Seventy-eight percent of vet professionals believe that pet obesity has increased over the past two years. When asked which three issues will have the biggest health and welfare implication in 10 years’ time they picked obesity as the top one.
PDSA’s twelfth annual Fit Club competition
PDSA is urging pet owners to ‘skip the treats and hit the streets’ to tackle the growing problem. The announcement comes coincides with the launch of its 12th national pet slimming contest: PDSA Pet Fit Club.
PDSA is inviting owners of overweight and obese pets to take part in the UK’s biggest and most successful pet slimming competition.
“Prevention is always better than cure,” said Rebecca. “But even if pets are already overweight or obese, this can be tackled with the right diet and exercise. Over the years our Pet Fit Club competition has helped transform some of the UK’s fattest pets into fit and healthy animals”.
“Owners have the ability to make a real difference to their pet’s health and happiness. PDSA is encouraging anyone concerned that their pet is overweight to enter them in Pet Fit Club.”
Pet Fit Club is a six-month diet and exercise programme, tailored and overseen by expert PDSA vets and nurses. The charity will select up to 15 overweight dogs, cats and rabbits from across the UK to participate.
Owners can enter their pets at www.pdsa.org.uk/petfitclub. Entry forms are also available from PDSA Pet Hospitals and Shops nationwide. The deadline for entries is Sunday 5 March, 2017.