The PDSA has released figures of a recent survey, showing millions of pets are more overweight and misunderstood than ever due to fundamental gaps in pet owners’ animal welfare knowledge.
18.5 million dogs, cats and rabbits are being fed deathly diets and 11.2 million pets are at risk of life-threatening disease due to not being vaccinated or neutered with 1.3 million dogs across the UK displaying problem behaviour, based on predicted populations of 8,308,605 dogs, 11,015,362 and 1,668,818 rabbits currently in the UK.
Most strikingly, in a PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report (PAW) produced in conjunction with YouGov, a serious lack of understanding and provision of even basic levels of care for millions of the UK’s pets was unearthed.
PDSA head of pet health and welfare, Nicola Martin, said the report was “difficult” reading considering findings were largely preventable: “The new report identifies serious concerns when it comes to the wellbeing of our pet nation, but in reality these are just the tip of the iceberg, especially if we don’t take action now to protect animal welfare long into the future.
“Taking on pets is a huge commitment and one that brings with it significant responsibilities throughout a pet’s lifetime. These responsibilities are not optional, they are a legal requirement and vital to ensure the physical and mental wellbeing of all pets,” he added.
The head of welfare was also keen to stress that pets’ needs should be considered no different to a human’s. “Just as humans have basic health and welfare needs, so do animals, but it is clear that in many cases their individual needs are just not understood.
“As the UK’s leading veterinary charity, we simply cannot ignore this and we want to do all we can to improve the long-term wellbeing of pets by helping owners understand what their pets really need to be healthy and happy.”
Pets’ diets were also culpable for damning news in the report. Despite acknowledging the consequences of pet obesity, millions of pet owners are still providing unsuitable diets for their companions with the levels of unsuitable treats being fed also rising.
Diets are being influenced by human emotion rather than an understanding of what pets really need, with 48 per cent of owners motivated to feed treats because of the short-term happiness it appears to bring to their animal companions. But, even more worrying, 29 per cent of owners feed treats because it makes them feel happy.
Dr Alex German, leading animal obesity specialist at the University of Liverpool Veterinary School said: “I am pleased to see PDSA stressing the important message that obesity is entirely preventable.
“Prevention is vital to reduce the number of overweight and obese pets, and a key benefit of PDSA’s research would be to help set a national agenda on pet obesity prevention.”