Pets' Corner: 'My dog's become a fatty bum'

I've recently been on holiday only to come back and find, to my horror, that my beautiful cocker spaniel, Charlie, has become a "fatty bum"! He is so huge that I don't really know where to start to get him back in shape. Please help! Christina, London

It seems like the world is obsessed with being too fat or too thin. It's even true in the dog world where dog breeders take a lot of time and effort to make sure that the creatures they are breeding look a specific way, which sometimes can be detrimental to the dog's well-being. Firstly, Charlie is not a "fatty bum"; it's just that at the moment there is more of him to love! You should go and discuss the weight issue with your vet to ensure that your round hound has no medical problems that will be aggravated by his weight; they will also be able to advise you on a suitable diet to help keep the weight off. There are many serious conditions that can shorten a dog's life span which are linked to obesity, including diabetes and heart disease. Once you've agreed on a new diet, phase it in gradually, as changing it abruptly could lead to stomach problems. You could add raw or cooked vegetables to his food to bulk the meal up and still keep it low in calories, but do not be tempted to give him titbits. With any new exercise routine, get him started gently as we don't want to give him a heart attack. You can always introduce toys to the walk. Remember that if he is chasing a ball he will be running twice as far. The weight loss will take time so be patient and consistent.

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Remember that if an animal shows signs of distress or discomfort, an early visit to the vet is always recommended