Takeaways, biscuits, chips, and even alcohol, are fuelling an obesity crisis for British pets, whose collars are bursting at the buckles due to our addiction to high-calorie, fatty diets.
According to vet charity PDSA, more than 10 million pets are getting fatty treats due to owners sharing their own unhealthy eating habits with their pets in a misguided attempt to make them happy.
PDSA research shows around nine out of ten owners (87%) give pets treats, despite 91% realising obesity can reduce their pet’s lifespan.
Around 2.5 million dogs (one in three) and more than two million cats (one in four) are overweight and, not only could they have shortened life expectancy, they will also have a drastically reduced quality of life in some cases.
Scotland topped the league table when it comes to lavishing animals with potentially deadly junk food, with 72% of owners admitting to giving fatty treats.
According to the PDSA, 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 launching its annual fat-fighting competition PDSA Pet Fit Club.
Over the past 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.
PDSA senior veterinary surgeon Elaine Pendlebury said: “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.”
PDSA’s 2013 PAW Report, produced in conjunction with YouGov, discovered a wide range of inappropriate treats being fed to pets, including fast food leftovers, crisps, biscuits, chocolate and chips.
In some cases, it appears pets have also been helping themselves to leftover alcoholic drinks.
Leading animal obesity expert at the the University of Glasgow’s School of Veterinary Medicine Philippa Yam said: “PDSA’s findings are very worrying and demonstrate diet remains one of the most misunderstood welfare needs for pets.
“I am delighted to see 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. “
Owners can enter their pets at www.pdsa.org.uk/petfitclub; the deadline for entries is Sunday, April 27.