PDSA warns of pet obesity crisis fuelled by bad diets

A combination of snacks, scraps, takeaway leftovers and even booze continues to fuel an obesity crisis among our pets, according to leading vet charity, PDSA. 

With new data showing that a staggering 5.5 million* cats, dogs and rabbits in the UK are being fed treats every day, the charity’s vets are warning owners that they could be drastically shortening their pet’s life expectancy.

Owners have admitted to indulging their pets by giving them fatty, sugary, and in some cases dangerous, foods.  These include cake, chocolate, biscuits, crisps, chips, takeaway and even alcohol.

On top of all these unhealthy treats, over 4 million pets (2.6 million dogs, 1.4 million cats and 12,000 rabbits) are fed table scraps or leftovers as their main meals**. These diet disasters are taking their toll, according to PDSA, with a third of dogs and a quarter of cats now classed as overweight or obese***.  Vet professionals predict that the problem will continue to grow – with 80% believing there will be more overweight pets than healthy ones by 2019****.  Sadly, many overweight pets develop potentially life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, as well as debilitating conditions including arthritis as a direct result of being overweight.

To help fight the flab PDSA is today launching its annual Pet Fit Club competition and is inviting owners of overweight and obese pets to take part in the UK’s biggest and most successful pet slimming competition.

“Pet obesity can be tackled, and through a diet and exercise programme like Pet Fit Club we can transform fat pets into fit pets,” said PDSA Vet Vicki Larkham-Jones.

Vicki continues: “Nearly half of pet owners believe that obesity is the biggest threat to animal welfare in the next ten years – yet pets continue to be fed unsuitable diets which is fuelling the problem.

“As well as being high in calories, food like takeaways, cake, cheese, chips and crisps are high in fat and sugars which are bad for our pets’ waistlines and teeth.  Some owners even admitted to giving chocolate and even alcohol, both of which are poisonous to pets and can be fatal.

“The good news is that we can make a real difference, starting now. With the right food and regular exercise, it is easy to keep pets fit and healthy. Over the past 11 years, PDSA Pet Fit Club has helped transform the lives of some of the UK’s most obese pets. Through the competition we have helped over 100 animals lose more than 63 stone and encouraged thousands more owners to make positive changes to their pet’s lifestyle. Once again we are inviting owners with overweight pets to enter.”

About Pet Fit Club


Pet Fit Club is a six-month diet and exercise programme, tailored and overseen by expert PDSA vets and nurses. The charity will select up to 12 overweight dogs, cats and rabbits from across the UK to participate.
 
Owners can enter their pets today. Entry forms are also available from PDSA Pet Hospitals, Shops and Pet Hut superstores nationwide. The deadline for entries is Sunday, 6 March, 2016.
 
PDSA Pet Fit Club was launched in 2005 and has already helped 74 dogs, 32 cats and 6 rabbits lose a total 63 stone 11lb - equivalent to over 400 bags of sugar, 6,500 tins of tuna, 7,000 sausages or four heavyweight boxers.

Shyla the American Bull Terrier from Liverpool

Pet obesity – The facts

Over 5.5 million pets - more than 3.3 million dogs, 2 million cats and 168,000 rabbits - are given daily treats*

  • Over 4 million UK pets (dogs, cats and rabbits) are fed scraps as their main meal**
  • Nearly 9 million owners give their pets treats because they believe it makes their furry friend feel happy*****
  • 88% of owners believe overweight pets have a shorter lifespan
  • 60% of owners think overweight pets are less happy

 

Pet treats – The facts

The number of pets fed unsuitable foods is fuelling the obesity crisis. High in sugar and fat, treats are bad for their teeth as well as their waistlines.  Some of the treats owners admitting giving, including chocolate and alcohol are poisonous and can prove fatal:

 

Number of Dogs

Number of Cats

Number of Rabbits

Alcohol

186,000

111,000

N/A

Chips

1,023,000

222,000

N/A

Crisps

1,116,000

666,000

48,000

Cake

83,7000

333,000

12,000

Human biscuits

2,232,000

222,000

84,000

Takeaway

651,000

333,000

N/A

Human chocolate

465,000

222,000

12,000

Pet Fit Club participants will receive free diet pet food for the duration of the competition, courtesy of Dechra.  The overall Pet Fit Club Champ, who will be crowned at the end of 2016, will win a year’s free diet food and a pet friendly holiday courtesy of cottages.com.

Case studies


More case studies available on request

Cilla and Shyla

American Bulldogs, Cilla and Shyla, from Liverpool, who need to lose over four stone (28kg) between them, have been put on a diet.

Curvy Cilla, who is thought to be named after one of the city’s most famous stars - the late singer Cilla Black - weighs in at over 9 stone (58kg), while her canine companion Shyla tips the scales slightly lower, but still hefty, 7 stone 9lbs (50kg).

Their owners, the Thomas family from Anfield, admit having fed Cilla (8) and Shyla (5) too many treats in the past but that has all changed over the past few weeks following advice from PDSA vets.

Alan Thomas (49) said they regularly gave the portly pooches treats including crumpets, pasta, and biscuits.  Dog biscuits were given ‘like they were going out of fashion’.

He said: “We adopted Cilla from an animal rescue centre in Liverpool and they gave her the name. She was actually very underweight when we first brought her home. We spoilt her because she’d had such a rotten start to life after being abandoned.

“She’s had to have a few operations on her eyes and ears and for a while she was taking medication which increased her appetite. To make matters worse she wouldn’t eat the tablets unless they were hidden in a crumpet!

“With Shyla, her weight gain is more down to us. We just can’t resist her puppy dog eyes or begging. She’s a very intelligent dog and loves to watch TV. Horse racing is her favourite – she sits glued to the screen until they finish when she lies down.”

Alan said the family are now thinking about portion control when feeding the dogs and have stopped dishing out treats.

Notes to editors:

The total sample size was 5,152 owners of cats, dogs and rabbits aged 18+ who live within the UK. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19 and 26 March 2015. The survey was carried out online via YouGov’s online research panel. The figures have been weighted to be representative of the population by pet species and the owner’s gender, age and geographic region. A link to the survey was also publicised via PDSA’s contact database, website and social media, to achieve a further 26,432 pet owner responses. These figures, however, have not been reported in this press release.

Based on estimated populations of 9.3 million dogs, 11.1 million cats and 1.2 million rabbits:

*36% of dogs, 18% of cats and 14% of rabbits receive treats on a daily basis. (9,300,000 x 36/100 = 3,348,000; 11,100,000 X 18/100 = 1,998,000; 1,200,000 X14/100 = 168,000)

**28% of dogs, 13% of cats and 1% of rabbits are fed table scraps or leftovers as part their main meal.

*** Data sourced from PDSA’s nationwide PetCheck tour

**** The survey was carried out face-to face to a sample of 1,127 veterinary professionals, including vets, vet nurses, veterinary care assistants, and vet and veterinary nursing students. Figures are not weighted. In addition, a survey was carried out online through an open link. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18 September and 10 October 2014. Total sample size was 572 veterinary professionals.

80% of veterinary professionals believe there will be more overweight pets than healthy weight pets in the five years’ time.

*****39% of dogs, 43% of cats and 36% of rabbit owners surveyed give their pets treats because they believe it makes them feel happy.

 

 

Number of Dogs

Number of Cats

Number of Rabbits

Alcohol

9,300,000 X 2/100 = 186,000

11,100,000 X 1/100

=111,000

N/A

Chips

9,300,000 X 11/100

=1,023,000

11,100,000 X 2/100

=222,000

N/A

Crisps

9,300,000 X 12/100 =1,116,000

11,100,000 X 6/100

= 666,000

1,200,000 X 4/100

=48,000

Cake

9,300,000 X 9/100

=83,7000

11,100,000 X 3/100

333,000

1,200,000 X 1/100

=12,000

Human biscuits

9,300,000 X 24/100

=2,232,000

11,100,000 X 2/100

=22,000

1,200,000 X 7/100

=84,000

Takeaway

9,300,000 X 7/100

=651,000

11,100,000 X 3/100

= 333,000

N/A

Human chocolate

9,300,000 X 5/100

=465,000

11,100,000 X 2/100

222,000

1,200,000 X 1/100

=12,000

February 2016

 My thanks to Russell Roberts of the PDSA who gave me permission to use this article.  The PDSA works hard with its clients to ensure all pets have the right to good nutrition.

 

 

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