New research, by vets at the University of Glasgow, has found overweight and obese dogs to be less energetic, enthusiastic, active and less comfortable than canines of a healthy weight.
According to the university, up to 59 per cent of dogs in Scotland are now classed as either overweight or obese.
They say pet owners with overweight dogs spend on average 16 per cent more on vet bills and, as with humans, fat dogs can face a plethora of health problems and ultimately a reduced life expectancy.
“We know that obesity in dogs is on the increase and that it’s a big problem,” explained Dr Philippa Yam, senior lecturer in Veterinary Science and Education at the University of Glasgow.
“Between 24 to 59 per cent of dogs in Scotland are overweight or obese which has major health consequences.”
Dr Yam said overweight dogs are more likely to develop orthopaedic problems such as arthritis, breathing problems and high blood pressure. It can also affect their life span, “leaner dogs live on average 1.8 years longer,” she said.
The team of researchers at Glasgow University spent years interviewing dog owners and asking them questions about their dog’s general health, attitude and behaviour.
They found overweight and obese dogs were less energetic and enthusiastic, as well as being less active and comfortable than dogs of a healthy weight.
“Weight impacts on the dog’s welfare. Overweight dogs don’t feel as good as normal weight dogs,” Dr Yam said.
“Prevention is better than cure, it can be very hard for an overweight dog to lose the weight, and if it does, around 50 per cent of dogs rebound and put the weight back on again,” she added.
A spokeswoman, from veterinary charity PDSA, said: “The research revealed today by the University of Glasgow doesn’t come as a surprise to PDSA.
“We often term pet obesity as ‘killing with kindness’. The vast majority of owners aren’t intentionally being cruel to their pets, they’re trying to treat them well and give them the best of everything – including the best food.
It’s simply a lack of awareness of the correct diet and exercise, body shape and the health implications of being overweight, that causes the problem.”