Vet charity wants to find and fix Edinburgh’s fattest pets

If you’ve got a podgy pet which only moves when it’s dinner time, then help them shed some pounds this year by entering a nationwide pet slimming programme.

Podgy Pug Sugar, from Caerphilly in Wales, tipped the scaled at 11.8Kg. Pic: PDSA

Veterinary charity PDSA is now appealing for Edinburgh’s fattest pets to enrol in the 2019 Pet Fit Club.

The call comes as statistics reveal up to half of UK pets are believed to be overweight or obese.

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Vets at the charity’s Edinburgh Pet Hospital, located on Hutchison Crossway, are warning owners that overfeeding and lack of exercise is driving an obesity epidemic among our four-legged friends.

Chester from East Lothian was 'top cat' in Pet Fit Club 2018. Pic: PDSA

Now in its 14th year, the PDSA Pet Fit Club has helped 137 overweight pets - 85 dogs, 42 cats, eight rabbits and two rats - lose 75 stone.

Pet Obesity Facts

Vets and vet nurses estimate that up to half of UK pets - 46 per cent of dogs, 34 per cent of cats and 30 per cent of rabbits - that they see in their practice every week are overweight or obese.

4 million (2.4 million dogs, 1.5 million cats and 30,000 rabbits) are fed table scraps or leftovers as one of their main types of food (taken from PDSA Animal Wellbeing report).

80 per cent of owners stated their dog was an ideal weight, but 40 per cent didn’t know their actual weight or body condition score.

74 per cent of owners stated their cat was an ideal weight, but 65 per cent didn’t know their actual weight or body condition score.

83 per cent of owners stated their rabbit was an ideal weight, but 77 per cent didn’t know their actual weight or body condition score.

Vet professionals estimated that 47 per cent of overweight and obese dogs seen have health issues which could be related to weight

34 per cent of vet professionals felt the number of overweight or obese cats they see in their practise has increased over the last two years.

Inappropriate diet is the most common rabbit health concern amongst veterinary professionals

Treats

5.5 million UK pets (3.3 million dogs, 2.1 million cats and 140,000 rabbits) are fed treats (including crisps, cake, cheese, chips, takeaways and chocolate) every day.

41 per cent of cat owners feed treats because they believe food makes them happy.

12 per cent of rabbit owners feed treats because they feel guilty about leaving them alone

Exercise

89,000 dogs are never walked.

In a 24 hour period, on average rabbits spend 12 hours in their hutch.

4% of cats (440,000) have no opportunities to exercise every day (taken from the PDSA Animal Wellbeing report)

The figures for pet owners were taken from a YouGov survey of 4,639 dog, cat and rabbit owners aged 18 and above who live in the UK. The study, conducted online, was done between January 9th and 19th in 2018.

Extrapolations to pet population figures are based on the following estimates of UK pet populations in the UK: 11.1 million cats, 8.9 million dogs and 1 million rabbits.

Figures for vets and vet nurses are taken from British Veterinary Association and British Veterinary Association Voice of the Profession Surveys.

The vet’s view

PDSA vet Olivia Anderson-Nathan said: “Obesity has been a huge problem among UK pets for a number of years and sadly there is no sign of improvement. It is one of the biggest long-term health concerns for our pet population, because it is so commonly seen by vets and nurses.

“Animals who are overweight have a much greater risk of developing health problems such as arthritis and diabetes – which can have drastic consequences.

“Excess weight can also seriously aggravate other medical problems, for example making it even more difficult for flat-faced breeds like Pugs and French Bulldogs to breathe. Research has also shown that carrying too much weight can even reduce a dog’s life expectancy by up to 2 years and 6 months.”

Olivia says it’s well known that the UK is a nation of animal lovers, but that too many are “showing this love and affection using food.”

She says: “Pets don’t need human food, in fact a lot of it can be very bad for them. They should be fed a complete pet food suitable for their age and weight, with occasional healthy treats. Our pets also need regular, varied exercise, suitable for their health and to keep their minds stimulated.

“A much healthier way to spoil a pet is to spend time with them, like taking them for an extra walk, buying them a new toy or giving them more playtime.”

How to enter

Owners can enter their pets in Pet Fit Club 2019 here.

Up to 15 overweight pets (dogs, cats, rabbits and rats) from across the UK will be chosen to participate in Pet Fit club. Selected pets are placed on a strict six-month diet and exercise programme, individually tailored to their needs and overseen by vets and vet nurses at their local PDSA Pet Hospital.

Participants receive free diet pet food for the duration of the competition. The overall Pet Fit Club Champ, crowned at the end of 2019, will win a year’s free diet food and a pet friendly holiday.

The closing date for entries is Sunday, March 3rd.

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