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It’s not just us humans who are facing an obesity crisis – our pets are too. Which is why the PDSA has launched a slimming competition for pets, to help our furry friends fight the flab. The comp includes a 10kg cat called Elvis Presley, who’s twice the size of the average feline and who enjoys an ‘all day buffet’ at home, courtesy of his devoted owner. There’s also a two stone Maltese Shih Tzu who loves cheese on toast and a Jack Russell who can’t stop chowing down on steak sandwiches. The national competition is in its 13th year and has helped 124 obese pets lose a colossal 71st between them. That’s the equivalent of a grand pian or 160,000 doughnuts. Last year’s winner was Alfie the Beagle who managed to shed 34% of his body weight.
But is Elvis up to the challenge? His owner, Carole Sweeney, says she didn’t realise just what a big boy he’d become until comments from family and friends left her ‘all shook up’. ‘I never gave Elvis treats or human food, but I’ve since learned that his portion sizes were way out of control,’ she says.
‘He basically had his own all-day buffet, whenever he emptied his bowl I would fill it back up again. The fact that he’s an indoor cat meant he soon piled on the weight. ‘Thanks to the expert advice from the vets and nurses at PDSA, he’s now being fed a special diet food and I weigh out his portions so I know exactly how much he’s eating.’
And no doubt, this intervention will prevent Elvis going the way of his namesake. The thing is, people overfeed their pets out of love. And it’s not even just overfeeding them on pet food; according to the PDSA’s PAW Report, 4 million pet owners feed their pets their own leftovers as main meals, and 5.7 million UK pets are fed treats every day – often including crisps, cake, cheese, chips, takeaway and even chocolate (which can be fatal to dogs, FYI).
PDSA vet Rebecca Ashman says: ‘Sadly the UK’s pet population is suffering from an obesity epidemic. ‘Latest scientific literature shows that at least a third of dogs and a quarter of cats are clinically overweight or obese, but the true figures could be as high as 40%, making obesity one of the most common medical diseases seen by vets.’
She says that although prevention is ‘definitely better than cure’, if you’re worried about your pet becoming too pudgy, it’s never too late to do something about it. ‘With the right advice, a good diet, suitable exercise and a bit of willpower owners have the ability to make a real difference to their pet’s health, happiness and life expectancy.’