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FATS & DOGS! PDSA on the hunt for the nation's porkiest pets.

Byline: ROBIN TURNER

WALES has some of the fattest pets in the UK because they are being fed too many fatty treats including Chinese takeaways, cheese, crisps and cakes.

That is the finding of the biggest national pet health survey conducted by veterinary charity the PDSA. What is even more concerning, according to the animal health and welfare charity, is that 59% of owners in Wales say they think treats make their pet happy with just 3% confessing to feeling any guilt about feeding them naughty treats.

And with just one cube of cheese given to a medium sized dog the equivalent of us eating four shortbread biscuits, half a margherita pizza, or one and a half burgers, the PDSA is urging owners to give their companions' diets a health MoT to prevent long-term, life-threatening illness for the nation's pets.

The PDSA is now launching its annual search to find Wales' most overweight pets with the worst diets with the aim of helping them slim as part of its pet slimming competition, Pet Fit Club.

People can enter their overweight dogs, cats and rabbits at www.pdsa.org.uk/petfitclub.

In Wales, dogs get the most fatty treats, with 90% of owners admitting to feeding inappropriate foods on a regular basis.

For cats, the figure is 44% while rabbits get the least amount of junk food (27%). The most commonly fed fatty treats for dogs and rabbits is toast, while for cats, cheese tops the fatty treats menu.

The survey, in conjunction with YouGov, involved 11,000 pet owners.

Throughout the UK, a shocking 12 million dogs, cats and rabbits are fed fatty treats often on a daily basis.

Dog obesity rates currently stand at around 35% (one-in-three), which is a rise of 14% over the past four years.

Dr Alex German, leading animal obesity specialist at the University of Liverpool's Veterinary School, said: "The PDSA's survey reveals some very worrying findings.

"The use of inappropriate treats is particularly concerning, especially the frequency with which these are being given."

The PDSA's current pet slimming champions are Labrador Lucky, five, from Pontypridd and Rottweiler Maddison, eight, from Liverpool.

With the PDSA's help, these two pets have lost around 25kg, the equivalent weight to around eight Yorkshire terriers.

Both hounds were morbidly obese when they started PDSA Pet Fit Club back in December 2010.

And after Lucky's owner Alyson King put her chubby pet on a diet, she also lost more than five stone herself, dropping from 17-and-a-half stone to nearly 12-and-a-half stone in the same six months.

Speaking after five-year-old Lucky was named PDSA Pet Fit Club Champion of the year, Alyson said: "I'm so thrilled at the change in Lucky.

"Before Pet Fit Club, he struggled to walk properly because of pain in his joints and hated all types of exercise.

"But that's all changed now.

As the weight has dropped off he's become much more energetic.

"He certainly keeps me in check - if he thinks it's time for walkies, he starts whining at me so I don't forget.

"Other people are amazed at the change in him. When we're out and about now he runs and jumps around which he wasn't able to do before."

Lucky's diet and fitness programme was tailored by the vets and nurses at Cardiff's PetAid Hospital run by the PDSA - the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals. And Lucky and Alyson won a prize of a pet-friendly holiday break in a country cottage.

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Lucky, with owner Alyson King, before losing weight and, inset, afterwards
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 23, 2011
Words:591
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