Overweight Pets Are At Risk Of Serious Health Conditions
Researchers from the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals have found that excess of fat can harm your pet's health. PDSA

Do you have a nice fat puppy or a kitten? Do you feel they look quite healthy when they are fat? New research shows that excess of fat can be quite dangerous to your pet's health.

Researchers from the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) have found that overweight pets are at risk of serious health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis, and have a lower life expectancy than healthy pets.

Researchers conducted a survey and found that more than 35 per cent or 2.9 million dogs in the UK are now overweight or obese. They also found three million cats are overweight.

Researchers found that 42 per cent of rabbits are being fed too little hay every day and 49 per cent are fed rabbit muesli (a mix of seeds and flakes) which should not be fed as it can contribute to obesity and is linked to painful dental disease.

Researchers believe that obesity can lead to serious health problems and can reduce life expectancy. There is hope, though, as it is never too late to make positive changes to a pet's diet and lifestyle.

Sean Wensley, PDSA Senior Veterinary Surgeon, said: "Excess pounds can contribute to a number of serious health conditions and, sadly, it does reduce life expectancy. But the good news is that it's never too late to make positive changes to a pet's diet and lifestyle."

Researchers from PSDA have suggested tips that will help your pets:

Prevention is better than cure: Preventing obesity is much easier than getting a pet to lose weight. A good diet when a pet is young is essential - fat puppies and kittens are more likely to become fat adult pets due to the number of fat cells they produce while growing.

Cut out the treats: Feeding a pet even a small treat can significantly increase its daily calorie intake. If you give your pet a treat, perhaps for training purposes, reduce the amount of food given in their main meal on that day.

Balanced diet: Weight loss requires a combination of the right diet and the right amount of exercise. Many owners feed "by eye" and it is easy to accidentally overfeed pets, so use scales to weigh out the daily food allowance each morning. Follow packet feeding guidelines or ask your vet about correct amounts.

Regular exercise: Build up activity levels gradually, as a pet should not go from couch potato to marathon runner overnight. Encouraging play and games is a great way to increase a pet's activity levels, but every pet is different so ask your vet about how much exercise your pet needs.

Seek veterinary advice: PDSA advises owners to speak to their vet before making major changes to their pet's diet or activity levels. In some pets, such as cats and rabbits, rapid weight loss can be dangerous or even fatal, so it is important for a vet or vet nurse to oversee the weight loss to ensure it is gradual and safe.

Learn about a pet's healthy shape: Many owners don't know what a healthy shape is for their pet and may see their pet as simply "cuddly", not realising that they are overweight. Owners should ask their vet, or visit the PDSA website for advice and guidance on a correct body shape for their pet.