Pic:Tom Martin © WALES NEWS SERVICE

It’s not just us humans that need to start the new year with a fitness mission. Don’t forget your four-legged pals might need a bit of encouragement too.

Surveys show that 5.5million pets in the UK (3.3million dogs, 2.1 million cats and 140,000 rabbits) are fed treats that include crisps, cake, cheese, chips and takeaway food every day!

41% of cat owners believing that the more food they feed their cat, the happier it will be. Rabbit owners also admit to doing the same because they feel guilty about leaving their bunnies outside in their hutch alone.

Shocking figures also show that 89,000 dogs are never walked.

So it’s hardly surprising that, according to stats, up to 46% of pet dogs and 34% of cats are overweight – and some, like Mitzi (below), are clinically obese.

Let’s face it, we have all been guilty of giving our pets a little too much food. Whether it’s because we are unwittingly overloading their bowl in case they happen to be hungrier than usual or because we’re slipping them treats for being so damn adorable – either way it’s something that we should be avoiding if we want to keep our furry BFFs in good health.

Vets at one of the UK’s leading animal charities, PDSA, who run a pet hospital in Manchester, are warning that overfeeding and not providing your beloved pet with enough exercise is driving an obesity epidemic amongst our furry little friends. This is putting their long-term health and happiness at risk.

They estimate that nearly 50% of overweight and obese dogs seen have health issues which are related to weight problems.

“It’s well known that we are a nation of animal lovers,” says PDSA vet Olivia Anderson-Nathan, “but unfortunately a lot of pet owners are showing this love and affection using food. But this way of ‘treating’ your best friend can be bad for their health in the long run.

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

“Excess weight can also seriously aggravate other medical problems, for example making it even more difficult for flat-faces breeds such as 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.

“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 and brains 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 play time.”

To help tackle the problem, they are searching for Greater Manchester’s podgiest pets to take part in this year’s PDSA Pet Fit Club – the UK’s top pet slimming competition.

15 overweight pets (dogs, cats, rabbits and rats) from across the UK will be chosen to participate in the Pet Fit Club. Selected pets will be placed on a strict six-month diet and exercise programme individually tailored to their needs. Successful pets from Greater Manchester will be monitored by vets and veterinary nurses at the Manchester PDSA Pet Hospital.

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

This is the competition’s 14th year. So far, it has helped 137 overweight pets including 85 dogs, 42 cats, eight rabbits and even two round looking rats lose a total of a whopping 75 stone. That’s the equivalent of 1,190 cans of dog food.

The competition’s joint winners from 2018 are a lovely Labrador named Sadie and a Spaniel named Borri who managed to shed a total of 2st 12lb between them – 25% of their body weight. That’s some slimming down.

“Over the years, PDSA Pet Fit Club has helped transform some of the UK’s fattest pets into fit and healthy animals,” says Olivia. “Pets that could barely walk, climb stairs or fit through cat flaps have been 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 overweight pets to enter today.”

Find out more and apply online or by calling the Pet Fit Club team on 01952 797246.

Closing date is Sunday 3rd March 2019.

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