Killing your pet with love

Obesity is a problem that affects pets just as much as their owners - and it's our duty to take care of them.

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The Independent Online

"Hello, my name’s Obie. I'm a five-year-old sausage dog and weigh 77 pounds."

"My owners often shower me with tasty treats, but nowadays, I do well if I manage to get from my bed to the back door and back to my bed again. Heaving myself up onto the sofa causes agonising pain in my hips. Sometimes I spend all day lying on my bed just staring at the wall unable to sleep from discomfort. What kind of life is this? I wish I could do something like chase a ball or fetch a stick but my weight is stopping me from doing the things I love."

This is Obie’s story - the world’s fattest dachshund. Just like people, dogs can become obese too. And morbid obesity is as lethal to dogs as it is to humans. But while obese humans are slowly killing themselves, obese dogs are being killed by their owners….and all too often in the name of love. Could you unknowingly be slowly killing your adored dog with love?

Tragically, it seems that this is exactly what so many dog owners are doing and severe and prolonged abuse of this kind is widespread. According to the PDSA 2011 Paw Report, out of the 8.3 million dogs in the UK one in three is obese.

People often don’t realise that just like humans need a balanced diet with regular exercise, so too does their pet. A podgy pooch may look cute but unless we fight the flab for our dogs they won’t live as long as we would like. Obesity is a serious health condition for everyone, dogs included, and can lead to all kinds of major complications like diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, slipped discs, breathing problems and some forms of cancer. Just as we know what those extra crisps and fat laden nibbles do to our hips, our table scraps are definitely not meant for our dogs.

If you are one of those owners slowly killing your dog, you are at risk of having him seized and taken into custody. Obie was in such a serious state when he was found, struggling to breathe and barely able to move, he had to be taken away from his owners and placed in care. Hopefully he’ll regain a quality of life that is worth living again with specialist medical attention and a long term care package. But not all obese dogs have such a lucky ending.

An obese dog represents gross negligence and irresponsibility. Our domestic dogs have evolved to be entirely reliant upon us to meet their needs and provide their food, shelter, comfort and exercise.

They can’t ask for what they want, or open the cupboards to knock up a healthy meal or just take themselves off to the park if they fancy a romp around. Their lives and therefore their health depends exclusively upon their owners. In fact, owners have a legal responsibility to ensure all the welfare needs of their dogs are met under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and this includes providing them with a suitable diet. Owners of dogs found in a life threatening state like Obie was and who have so blatantly failed to meet his needs over an extended period of time, can face prosecution and be banned from owning a pet again.

So the next time those big brown eyes look up at you pleading, 'Please give me a treat,' remember that if you can’t learn to say “no” you could be killing your much loved best friend.