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Killer diet threat to North East pets

Millie the Jack Russell from Newcastle who weighs 10.6kg, around double the amount she should, but her owners have placed her on a diet Photo:

Junk food and fatty treats causing misery to thousands of North East pets, says PDSA

Take-aways, biscuits, chips and even alcohol – are all fuelling an ongoing obesity crisis for British pets, whose collars are bursting at the buckles owing to our addiction to high-calorie, fatty diets.

Pet owners in the North East are adding to the problem by sharing their own unhealthy eating habits with their pets in a well-intentioned but misguided attempt to make them happy, according to vet charity PDSA (The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals).

Exclusive PDSA research shows that 58% of pet owners in the North East give their pets fatty treats, despite the fact that nationally over 90% of owners realise the resulting obesity can reduce their pet’s lifespan. Around 2.5 million dogs (one in three) and over two million cats (one in four) are currently overweight and, not only could they have their lives cut short, many will also have a drastically reduced quality of life.

Scotland topped the lardy league table when it comes to lavishing animals with potentially deadly junk food, with 72% of owners admitting to giving fatty treats. Welsh pet owners are the next worst offenders, with 69% of owners over indulging their pets. Two in three North West pet owners (64%) are also loading their pets up with high-calorie, unsuitable snacks. While London pet owners scored the best, around half (48%) of owners are still feeding inappropriate food to their four-legged friends.

To help combat the problem the charity is today launching its annual fat-fighting competition, PDSA Pet Fit Club. Over the last eight years, the contest has transformed the lives of some of Britain’s fattest pets, many of whom simply wouldn't have survived had their weight issues not been tackled.

Owners can enter their pets at the fitclub. The deadline for entries is Sunday 27 April.

“Sadly, seeing morbidly obese pets is now an everyday occurrence in vet practices across the UK; it is one of the biggest welfare concerns facing the nation’s pets. It’s effectively a silent killer leading to long term health issues for pets that can cut their lifespan by up to two years.

“Pet obesity significantly increases the danger of developing major health problems such as diabetes, arthritis and heart disease and can also bring about the onset of these chronic diseases much earlier. It’s tragic to think that millions of pets are suffering under the strain of carrying too much weight, when it is an entirely preventable condition.”

– Elaine Pendlebury, PDSA Senior Veterinary Surgeon

PDSA’s 2013 PAW Report*, produced in conjunction with YouGov, provides the biggest annual insight into pet health and welfare and has discovered a wide range of inappropriate treats are being fed to pets. These include fast food leftovers, crisps, biscuits, chocolate and chips. In some cases, it appears pets have also been helping themselves to leftover alcoholic drinks.

“PDSA’s findings are very worrying and demonstrate that diet remains one of the most misunderstood welfare needs for pets. Obesity is one of the most pressing health issues affecting companion animals. PDSA’s work in this area is hugely successful.

“I am delighted to see that Pet Fit Club is continuing to make a real impact on pet obesity, by raising awareness of the issue and helping to transform the lives of many pets who were heading for an early grave due to the severity of their weight problems. PDSA’s programme clearly demonstrates that with tailored veterinary support and education, this devastating condition can be reversed.”

– Dr Philippa Yam, leading animal obesity expert