OWNERS’ desire to give treats during the pandemic is being blamed for a rise in overweight pets in Scotland – raising concerns of an obesity epidemic.
Some160,000 pets have gained weight in Scotland since March 2020 raising concerns from vet charity, the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) that it is a “ticking bomb” threatening the lives of pets across Scotland.
The charity’s study in conjunction with YouGov has also found that 84,000 Scottish owners have fed their four-legged friends more human treats since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, adding further fuel to what it calls “a pet obesity crisis”.
And nearly one in in ten pet owners in Scotland have reported that their pet has gained weight since the start of the pandemic.
But the new study found that Scottish pet owners exercise their dog significantly more frequently than in England or Wales, with 55 per cent reporting they go walkies more than once a day, compared to 43 per cent of people living in England, and 36 per cent of owners in Wales.
PDSA vet Susan Hermit said: “Worryingly, the detrimental health effects of obesity in our four-legged family members don’t appear to be well-recognised amongst owners. Three in ten don’t agree that overweight pets are more likely to suffer from serious diseases, and 35 per cent don’t agree that they are less likely to live as long.
“Obesity has been a huge problem among 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.
“Animals who are overweight have a much greater risk of developing health problems such as arthritis and diabetes – which can have drastic consequences, even shortening their life by up to two years. We could therefore see this huge obesity problem impact on our pet’s health for years to come.
“In most cases, simply adapting their diet, replacing treats with playtime and encouraging them to move more can make a huge difference, and are all the ingredients needed for our pets to maintain a healthy weight, essential for a happy, healthy life.”
Across the UK, for those who said their pets were overweight, the most common factors preventing them slimming down was that they beg for food (29%) and they like feeding treats (19%).
Nearly one in five said it was because their pet is fussy with food and 15% said it was because the owners felt giving treats shows how much they love their animals.
Ms Hermit added: “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.
“Unfortunately, we know from previous PAW Reports that some owners struggle to recognise when their pet is overweight or obese and in need of weight loss, which is the first step towards helping them live a longer, happier life. ”
Alex German, Royal Canin Professor of Small Animal Medicine at the University of Liverpool and world-leading expert in cat and dog weight management, added: “Pet obesity is a growing crisis that is having an impact on the long-term health and happiness of pets.
“Both experience and research show that carrying excess weight can have huge health implications, including associations with shorter life expectancy. We all agree that we need to tackle pet obesity urgently, although losing weight can be challenging if you don’t know where to start.”