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Calling time on fat cats and podgy pooches

When you’re sitting on the sofa this evening, glance across at the cat or dog curled up beside you and be honest – is he / she a little bit too chubby around the middle, snoozing too much during the day or wheezing when they walk? Do you give in too frequently to that look that cannily seems to say “please feed me, look how cute I am”? Yes, maybe? Well, you’re not alone – and I can also count myself as being guilty of sometimes falling for that look – as this week’s survey by the PDSA reveals that more than one in three dogs and cats are obese, representing a rise of 14 per cent in four years.

The shocking findings into the state of our pets’ waistlines suggest that we are literally loving our pets to death by treating them to sugary snacks and extra titbits. Around half of the owners surveyed thought treats made their pets happy and only two per cent felt guilty when giving their dog or cat a high-calorie snack. We think we would be depriving them if we didn’t give them extra but the fact is that we are tragically helping to send them to an early grave. 

As an over-indulgent dog owner myself, I know that I sometimes give into my dogs winsome stare to “feed me now!” if she wants a chew or one of her choc drops and I have been known to sometimes give her too many treats. However, the cases cited by the PDSA in their study of 11,000 pet owners shows up some really sad cases of dogs, who were found in the survey to be the most over-indulged, with more than six million being fed junk food including takeaways as part of their daily diet. Inevitably, porky pooches and fat felines are the result of such ‘treat time’ with all the health problems including heart disease and diabetes that can result.

Take Bailey the Border Collie, who was regularly fed biscuits and became 60 per cent overweight, and Deco the Golden Labrador, the canine ‘vacuum cleaner’ who ballooned to 8st 6lbs.

Sean Wensley, a senior vet at the PDSA, commented: “With so many pets being fed inappropriate diets, the effect on their health is devastating. Many owners may think that their favourite treats are harmless to pets. This is not the case. Pets need diets that are suitable for their species, age and body-size.”

However, there is hope for the health of the nation’s pets as increasing numbers of pet owners are giving their pets “lifestyle MOTs” and putting them on diets. Lucky the Labrador lost 2 stone 2lbs after going on a ‘weight loss journey’ alongside owner Alyson King while Tigger the cat lost an equally impressive 4lbs and Badger the black and white cat lost 2lbs. You don’t have to deprive them of all treats but try to swap the sugar-loaded cakes and biscuits for dog-friendly low-fat milk biscuits for instance, which is what I am trying to do! So, next time your gaze shifts to the podgy pooch or flabby feline lying next to you on the sofa, you can take this as an excuse to finally kick-start that diet and fitness plan…. perhaps this time together?