Britain is facing a pet obesity epidemic, the UK pet industry has warned, as new figures emerged that suggest almost half of all animals taken to the vet are considered overweight.
According to a report released today entitled Pet Obesity: Five Years On, the vast majority of vets believe that the issue has got markedly worse since 2009 and call for urgent action to be taken by owners.
More than two-thirds of pet owners fail to feed their animals correctly in accordance with vets’ guidelines, the researchers said, based on a survey of 1,000 owners carried out last month.
And while 93 per cent of pet-owners say they would be deeply concerned to discover that their animal was overweight, only 37 per cent are aware of the simple techniques which can be used to check this.
Zara Boland, a practising vet and canine nutritionist for Dogs Monthly, warned owners that “there is nothing ‘cuddly’ about an overweight pet”.
She said: “Overweight pets, like humans, can suffer from a myriad of health issues such as osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
“Obesity is a disease in itself. It causes discomfort and illness that can result in both emotional distress and financial pressure for owners, and it has also been proven to reduce actual life length.
“We must continue pushing the pet health message until overweight pets are no longer an increasing and widespread concern.”
The report released today, produced by the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA), also found that 36 per cent of pet owners are using “human” food to treat pets, even when some can be toxic to animals (such as chocolate, onions and grapes).
According to PFMA, more than three-quarters of UK vets are now running obesity clinics at their surgeries, and the organisation quoted previous research which suggests keeping a pet at a lean body weight can prolong its active life by up to two years.
PFMA has produced a series of practical tools and advice for pet owners to follow, which can be found on their website.
Michael Bellingham, the PFMA chief executive, said: “All the tools are in place for pet owners and pet care professionals to better pets’ lives together – now is the time to use them.”