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  • STOP PRESS: the UK’s supersized pets are fighting the flab

    Categories: In the News
photo of Jack
Jack Welch from Middlesex

The nation’s heaviest cats, dogs and rabbits to slim down in PDSA’s pet slimming competition

The impact of expanding waistlines on the health of our nation’s pets is a huge concern for the UK’s leading veterinary charity, PDSA, with around 2.9 million dogs and 3 million cats* in the UK battling the bulge. But worryingly, 84% of owners believe their pets are the right weight, which suggests there is a widespread misunderstanding about what a healthy weight for pets should be.**

However, there’s good news on the horizon today for 18 of the UK’s podgiest pets. PDSA has announced the line-up of pet finalists in its annual slimming competition –  Pet Fit Club – who are about to start their journey to becoming healthier, happier and shadows of their former selves.

The contestants – 11 dogs, 5 cats and 2 rabbits – are currently carrying a combined excess weight of over 24 stone which equates to over 380 tins of dog food, the weight of 35 average sized cats or the weight of 50 Yorkshire Terriers.  All of the finalists fall into the category of obese or morbidly obese and desperately need to lose weight to improve their quality of life. Pets carrying 20% or more of their ideal body weight are classed as obese, while pets carrying over 50% are deemed morbidly obese.

photo of Jack
Cavalier Jack weighed a whopping 22kg before starting his diet with PDSA

PDSA vets are guiding the owners of each of these supersized pets on their journey to slim down and shape-up with a balanced diet and tailored exercise plan.

Sean Wensley, PDSA Senior Veterinary Surgeon, said: “Excess pounds can contribute to a number of serious health conditions and, sadly, it does reduce life expectancy. But the good news is that it’s never too late to make positive changes to a pet’s diet and lifestyle.”

This year’s 18 finalists include a line-up of pets who have become accustomed to a variety of unhealthy foods including a ‘custard cream loving’ dog called Alfie; a 10.2kg Scottish cat called Maverick who is 85% overweight; food thief, Deco – a canine who likes cake but is carrying 57% extra body weight; Romeo the Labrador who has a penchant for roast dinners who is 47% overweight.

The diets for the finalists are being supplied by Hill’s pet food and Burgess Pet Care. The overall winner of the competition will receive a pet-friendly holiday worth £500 with the Four Seasons hotel in Perthshire.

Pet obesity revealed:

  • Over a third of all dogs (35% or 2.9million) in the UK are now overweight or obese.*
  • Cats don’t fare much better, with PDSA data showing that around one in four are overweight (approximately 3 million).*
  • Rabbits have the worst diets compared to dogs and cats with 42% being fed too little hay every day, and 49% being fed rabbit muesli (a mix of seeds and flakes) which should not be fed as it can contribute  to obesity and is linked with painful dental disease.**
  • Overweight pets are at risk of serious health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis, and have a lower life expectancy than healthy pets.
  • Over-feeding treats and providing the incorrect diet can cause pet obesity.  90% of dog owners admit to feeding treats such as cheese, crisps, cakes, biscuits, toast and takeaways.**

PDSA’s pet obesity advice clinic – top tips from PDSA Senior Vet, Sean Wensley: 

  • Prevention is better than cure: Preventing obesity is much easier than getting a pet to lose weight.  A good diet when a pet is young is essential – fat puppies and kittens are more likely to become fat adult pets due to the number of fat cells they produce while growing.
  • Cut out the treats: feeding a pet even a small treat can significantly increase their daily calorie intake. If you give your pet a treat, perhaps for training purposes, reduce the amount of food given in their main meal on that day.
  • Balanced diet: Weight loss requires a combination of the right diet and the right amount of exercise.  Many owners feed ‘by eye’ and it’s easy to accidentally overfeed pets, so use scales to weigh out the daily food allowance each morning. Follow packet feeding guidelines or ask your vet about correct amounts.
  • Regular exercise: Build up activity levels gradually, as a pet shouldn’t go from couch potato to marathon runner overnight. Encouraging play and games is a great way to increase a pet’s activity levels, but every pet is different so ask your vet about how much exercise your pet needs.
  • Seek veterinary advice: PDSA advises owners to speak to their vet before making major changes to their pet’s diet or activity levels. In some pets, such as cats and rabbits, rapid weight loss can be dangerous or even fatal, so it’s important for a vet or vet nurse to oversee the weight loss to ensure it is gradual and safe.
  • Learn about a pet’s healthy shape:  Many owners don’t know what a healthy shape is for their pet and may see their pet as simply ‘cuddly’, not realising that they are overweight.  Owners should ask their vet, or visit the PDSA website for advice and guidance on a correct body shape for their pet at
  • Take action now: Some owners are worried about seeking advice for their overweight pet for fear of being prosecuted. However, cases of prosecution for pet obesity are very rare and are usually a result of owners continually ignoring advice from their vet over a period of time. 

* Information taken from PDSA PetCheck assessments of the weight and general health of nearly 30,000 dogs between 2006-2010. During this period, the percentage of overweight dogs has risen from around one-in-five (21%) to more than one-in-three (35%). Cat data is taken from PDSA assessments in the charity’s PetAid hospitals.

** Information taken from the PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report 2011, a survey of 11,124 dog, cat and rabbit owners in the UK was conducted online between 21st September – 16th November 2010 through the YouGov panel. Data is weighted to be representative of dog, cat and rabbit owners in the UK.

Notes to Editors:

PDSA is the UK’s leading veterinary charity, providing free veterinary care for the sick and injured pets of people in need and promoting responsible pet ownership. For further information about PDSA please visit or call 0800 731 2502.

For media enquiries, please contact the Press Office on 01952 204 792, email, or visit

Jack Welch

An obese Cavalier King Charles Spaniel from Stanmore in Middlesex, who is so huge his new owners have nicknamed him ‘Jumbo Jack’, has been picked to take part in a national pet slimming competition – Pet Fit Club

Jack (7), was entered into the fat fighting competition by his new owner Rose Welch (52), who adopted the already podgy pooch in January.  When he arrived at his new home, he weighed 22kg making him 120% overweight – more than twice as much as a healthy dog of his size should be.

Rose, who is currently confined to a wheelchair as she suffers from Multiple Sclerosis (MS), said: “Although I’d promised myself I wouldn’t get another dog, I heard about a very overweight Spaniel called Jack that was in need of a good home and I couldn’t bear to leave him to suffer, so I arranged to adopt him immediately.”

When he arrived at Rose’s house Jack could barely walk, couldn’t lie down comfortably, and was constantly panting.  She was so concerned for his health, that she didn’t think he would make it through the night. Thankfully though, he did, and Rose took him straight to the vet the next morning to start him on a diet.

PDSA Vets use a special scale to assess the size of pets on a scale of one to five with five being morbidly obese. Jack was given a body condition score of five – the highest and most worrying score. His specially tailored weight-loss programme is being overseen and managed by the Vets and Nurses at Hendon PDSA PetAid hospital.

Senior Veterinary Surgeon, Ros Ford, said: “Jack is morbidly obese, which is likely to have very serious consequences for his health and life expectancy if he doesn’t lose weight. Overweight pets have a lower quality of life, are at risk of health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis, and are likely to die sooner.”

Luckily, Jack’s new owner Rose is determined to help him get to a healthier weight.  Jack’s ideal weight is estimated at around 10kg, but he has been given a target of 15kg to reach by the end of Pet Fit Club.

Rose continued: “Jack has such a loving character. He settled in straight away with my family and our other dogs, and everyone immediately fell in love with him. We weigh out his food carefully every day, and make sure he gets plenty of exercise. We entered Jack into Pet Fit Club as we wanted to help raise awareness of the seriousness of this issue.  Owners may think they are showering their pets with love by over-feeding them, but in reality they are slowly killing them with kindness.”

Research from the annual PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report* has found that 12 million UK pets are being fed too many fatty treats, including takeaways, cheese, crisps and cakes, often on a daily basis, which is fuelling the UK pet obesity epidemic.

Although it is clearly the overall health benefits that Jack will get from taking part in PDSA’s highly successful pet slimming competition  that really count, Jack will also be competing with 17 other cats, dogs and rabbits to try to win the title of PDSA Pet Fit Club slimmer of the year.

Supporters can follow Jack’s progress by visiting and can sponsor Jack to help raise vital funds for PDSA.

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