Takeaways and booze – charity reveals the shocking ‘treats’ fuelling the UK’s pet obesity crisis

PDSA warns of pet obesity crisis fuelled by bad diets

Strictly embargoed until 00.01am 10 February 2016

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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 at www.pdsa.org.uk/petfitclub. Entry forms are also available from PDSA Pet Hospitals, Shops and Pet Hut superstores nationwide. The deadline for entries is Sunday, 6 March, 2015.

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.

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

















Human biscuits








Human chocolate




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 www.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.

Lucy Lazy Lucy the cat has eaten and slept her way to a colossal 18.5lbs (8.4kg) – almost 70% more than she should be – after her owner mistakenly believed she was pregnant and fed her double portions.

When Vicky Wood (85) adopted white and ginger moggie Lucy six months ago,

she was in a poor state with scabs and spots all over her body and appeared to be starving.

Vicky says that she was wrongly informed that Lucy was pregnant with four kittens.

She said: “Because I was told she was pregnant I kept her indoors and gave her extra food as I thought she needed it. However, when the time came for her to give birth nothing happened. I took her to the vets and they said she wasn’t pregnant.

“PDSA have recently advised me to put Lucy on a diet. I’m hoping to get her to lose some weight but it’s going to be a challenge because she barely wants to move all day and doesn’t want to go outside.”