Latest research has revealed that a whopping 160,000 furry friends have gained weight in Scotland since March 2020 – contributing towards a total of 1.4 million pets across the UK who have done so during lockdown.
Vet charity PDSA says that the worrying findings unveil the true extent of what was already a growing pet obesity epidemic, with the pandemic creating a ticking time bomb threatening the lives of pets across the UK.
The study* of more than 4,500 UK pet owners by leading vet charity, PDSA, and YouGov, 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 the pet obesity crisis.
More pet owners in Scotland (9 per cent) report that their pet has gained weight since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, compared to the Midlands (5 per cent). However, Scottish pet owners walk their dog significantly more frequently than in England or Wales, with 55 per cent reporting they walk their dog more than once a day, compared to 43 per cent of people living in England, and 36 per cent of owners in Wales.
A couch-potato lifestyle and excessive food consumption over lockdown is having drastic consequences for our pets. And the love we feel for our pets could also be contributing to the problem, as according to UK owners who said their pet was overweight, the most common factors preventing their pet from losing weight were: giving in when their pet begs for food (29 per cent), they like feeding treats to their pet (19 per cent), their pet is fussy with food (19 per cent), and they feel giving treats shows how much they love them (15 per cent).
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 (31 per cent) 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 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**.
“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.”
Susan adds: “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. We’ve created a useful free guide to help owners identify if their furry friend is overweight, along with advice on how they can support their pet back to their target weight.
Professor Alex German, Royal Canin Professor of Small Animal Medicine at the University of Liverpool and world-leading expert in cat and dog weight management, adds: “Pet obesity is a growing crisis that is having an impact on the long-term health and happiness of the UK’s 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.
“PDSA’s #WeighUp guide is an invaluable tool to help empower owners to identify the signs of weight gain in their pet in the first place, and also take practical steps to address it.”
Susan concludes: “The good news is that even if your pooch or kitty is in need of a health kick, it’s never too late to help them eat well, exercise and play more, and live longer. 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.”
For further information about PDSA’s #WeighUp campaign, which is proudly sponsored by Royal Canin, and to download its free guide to help check if your pet is a healthy weight and what to do if not, visit https://pdsa.org.uk/WeighUp.