PDSA charity says pets at risk from 'obesity time bomb'

PDSA nurse Steph Williams with Cookie the cat from Middlesbrough
Image caption The charity said more pets faced arthritis, diabetes and heart disease

Thousands of dogs, cats and rabbits are at risk of an early death due to an "obesity time bomb", a veterinary charity has warned.

PDSA said more pets faced arthritis, diabetes and heart disease after being fed foods including takeaways, crisps and cakes.

When coupled with little or no exercise, their lives will often be cut short, the charity said.

The findings come as PDSA launches its annual pet slimming competition.

The PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report, in conjunction with YouGov, saw 3,956 dog, cat and rabbit owners and 466 veterinary staff take part in an online survey in 2012.

The charity claimed the statistics were representative of pet owners in the UK, meaning more than 18 million dogs, cats and rabbits were being fed "deadly diets".

'Hopelessly overweight'

PDSA vet Elaine Pendlebury said as well as posing major health risks, pet obesity also meant "daily misery" for millions of animals.

"Vet practices across the UK see the consequences of pet obesity every single day such as obese dogs unable to enjoy regular walks due to exhaustion, fat cats that can't jump or play, and rabbits so hopelessly overweight they can't clean themselves properly," she said.

Image caption The competition aims to help the fattest pets in the UK get fit

"And then there are other obesity-related health conditions which can mean pets don't lead the long and happy lives they should."

The competition - Pet Fit Club - aims to find the fattest pets in the UK and help them get fit.

So far it has helped 46 dogs, 21 cats and one rabbit lose a total of 524lb (238kg), the charity said.

At 45lb (20.5kg) last year's winner, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel called Jack, was so fat he did not have the energy to bark.

He was re-homed and his new owner put him on a diet and fitness programme which saw him lose half of his body weight.

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