PDSA says overweight pets risk long term health problems after more than a million piled on the pounds in lockdown
A desire by pet owners to let their animals enjoy 'human treats' during lockdown is partly to blame for a dramatic rise in the numbers of overweight pets.
More than a million pets have piled on the pounds in lockdown, says animal charity the PDSA, which suggests people's love for their pets was partly to blame.
It seems it is not just humans noticing the health implications of the pandemic 18 months on - with dogs, cats and rabbits among those to have often eaten too much, gained more weight than is healthy or taken less exercise since last March.
Vets at the PDSA says the coronavirus pandemic has made worse what was already a 'growing pet obesity epidemic' - creating a ticking time bomb that could threaten the lives of thousands of much loved animals.
The organisation says its own research, carried out with the help of YouGov, suggests that around 1.4million pets have put on weight since the first lockdown in March 2020.
What's more the behaviour of owners could be adding to the problem - with part of the weight gain blamed on the temptation to feed animals an increasing number of foods not suitable for animals.
With households spending more time indoors and growing numbers of adults spending more of their working week at home, the PDSA said more and more animals were now facing issues with excessive food consumption as dogs, cats and other furry friends enjoyed their own meals alongside extra servings of other food slipped to them by devoted owners.
What's more bad habits such as giving in when a pet begs for food, feeding treats to their pet between meals, finding that their pet had become fussy with food and wishing to give treats to their animal to show how much they love and appreciate them have all been suggested as barriers owners are now experiencing in trying to get their animals to shift their lockdown pounds.
PDSA veterinary nurse Nina Downing said: “Obesity has been a huge problem among UK pets for a number of years and sadly our PAW Report indicates this is only getting worse. It is one of the biggest long-term health concerns for our pet population, because it is so commonly seen by vets and nurses, with vet professionals estimating that up to half of their pet patients they see each week are overweight.
“With many owners spending more time at home with their pets since the start of the pandemic, the potential for weight gain due to increased feeding - particularly of treats - was always a concern."
Rather like humans, animals who are overweight, says Nina, have a much greater risk of developing health problems such as arthritis and diabetes both of which can have drastic consequences for an animal's health including the potential to shorten its life by up to two years.
She added: "We could therefore see this huge obesity problem impact on our pet’s health for years to come.”
For owners struggling to know how best to manage their pet's weight the PDSA has launched a Weigh Up guide to help people identify the signs of weight gain in their animal and then take practical steps to address it. To read more click here.