An overweight Leeds dog who shed weight at a pet 'fit club' has been held up as an example of the programme's success.
Tilly, who lives with owner Sharon Smith in Whinmoor, was unable to chase after balls in the park after overindulging in treats and leftovers.
The Staffordshire bull terrier weighed 19kg and was at risk of developing diabetes.
“It was such a shock when we found out Tilly was obese, as we’ve always tried to make sure she has plenty of exercise,” said Sharon.
“She gets four walks a day and on one we make sure she has plenty of time off the leading running around, chasing balls we throw for her.
“But then she started refusing to chase the ball after a few throws and instead lay down panting, so it was straight to our vets for a check-up.
“We used to give her treats and sometimes a little bit of food from our dinners, and this is what must have contributed to her putting on the pounds.
“Our vet nurse at Vets4Pets Leeds then told us about a weight loss clinic she was running and we enrolled Tilly. We immediately stopped feeding her little bits of leftover food and reduced her treat intake.
“The realistic threat of diabetes was a real shock, but with support from our vet nurse we’ve been able to reduce Tilly’s weight and remove the prospect of diabetes. She is now at about her healthy ideal weight and it’s made such a big difference.
“It’s now us that get tired on the walks and Tilly just wants to keep on going and is chasing the ball, more than ever before.
“The experience has made us much more aware of just how easily and quickly pets can become overweight or obese, and we’ll certainly be taking the advice from the vet nurse about food intake, while keeping her exercise routine the same.”
Over eighty per cent of vets said they had seen a rise in pet obesity in the past two years.
Dr Huw Stacey, director of clinical services at Vets4Pets, said:
“Obesity is currently one of the most serious health and welfare issues affecting pets in the UK, which may be surprising to some owners. It can often be hard for owners to recognise if their pet has become an unhealthy weight, because weight gain can be very gradual. With millions of pets currently over their ideal weight, being obese or overweight is now almost considered as the norm, or even cuddly or cute.
“And, as with humans, weight gain in pets, more often than not, is because of too much food and not enough exercise.
“But there is help out there for owners to help reduce their pet’s weight, both in veterinary practices by attending weight clinics, and online using tools.”
Overfeeding with treats is a common cause of pet weight gain, and vets suggest avoiding snacks between meals altogether.
A dog eating one ounce of cheese will consume the equivalent calories of a human eating a burger, while for a cat it equates to three chocolate bars.
To sign up for charity PDSA's Pet Fit Club, visit www.pdsa.org.uk/petfitclub.