Vet charity, PDSA is searching for the UK’s fattest dogs as it launches its annual pet slimming competition – Pet Fit Club.
Now in its 15th year, the competition aims to help tackle the UK’s pet obesity crisis – as the charity’s stats reveal up to half of UK pets (56% of dogs, 34% of cats and 30% of rabbits) are believed to be overweight or obese.
The most common reasons given by UK vets and vet nurses for excess weight in pets are: owner’s lack of recognition that their pet is overweight; feeding ‘treats’ or human food, and inappropriate portion sizes. All of which could be leaving our four-legged friend’s health, happiness and life-expectancy at serious risk.
Since 2005, Pet Fit Club has helped 143 pets (89 dogs, 44 cats, eight rabbits and two rats) lose 513kg (80st 12lb) – equivalent to a popular bear! The 2019 Pet Fit Club Champ, Luigi the Beagle, lost an impressive 8.7kg (1st 5lb) – 30% of his bodyweight – and 8 inches from his waist.
The charity, which provides free and reduced cost veterinary care to pets in need, is urging owners to enter their pets for the slimming competition to help them battle the bulge at www.pdsa.org.uk/petfitclub.
PDSA Vet Nurse, Nina Downing, said: “Pet obesity has been a huge problem in the UK for many years and sadly there is no sign of improvement, with nearly one in every two pets seen by vets and vet nurses overweight or obese. This is a serious health issue, one of the biggest currently threatening pet wellbeing across the UK.
“Pets who are overweight or obese are much more likely to develop health problems such as arthritis and diabetes. Being overweight can also seriously aggravate other health problems, such as heart disease. For example, Pugs and French Bulldogs already struggle to breath because of their flat faces but carrying excess inches can make this much worse.
“Research has also shown that carrying too much weight can reduce a dog’s life expectancy by up to 2 years and 6 months.”
Selected pets are placed on a 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, and the overall Pet Fit Club Champ, crowned at the end of 2020, will win a year’s free pet food and a pet friendly holiday.
Owners can find out more and apply online at pdsa.org.uk/petfitclub or by calling the Pet Fit Club team on 01952 797246. The closing date is Sunday 8 March 2020.
Nina adds: “We know that we are a nation of animal lovers, but unfortunately a lot of pet owners show their love and affection using food. And as the waistlines of the pet population have expanded, our understanding of a ‘healthy shape’ has become distorted – seeing overweight pets becomes normal. Recognising a healthy body shape – and if there is a problem – is the first step to making a positive change for your pet’s health.
“Most pets would be just as happy with extra attention – an extra walk or playtime – than food. And ‘treats’ of human food or too-large portions can be very bad for them. They should be fed a complete pet food suitable for their age and weight, with only occasional healthy treats, such as a few slices of carrot for dogs and a small piece of white fish or meat for cats. Our pets also need regular, varied exercise, suitable for their age and health, to keep their bodies and minds stimulated.”
Nina concludes: “Pet Fit Club helps transform the UK’s fattest pets into fit and healthy animals. Pets that could barely walk, climb stairs or fit through cat flaps will be given a new lease of life. Prevention is always better than cure, but it is never too late to make a change. With the right advice, a good diet, suitable exercise and a bit of willpower, owners have the ability to make a real difference to their pet’s lives. So, we’re urging owners who have the overweight pets to enter today.”
You can enter Pet Fit Club at www.pdsa.org.uk/petfitclub