Experts are urging owners to watch and weigh their pets this festive season in order to avoid ‘Christmas Effect’ – as obesity can lead to serious health implications.

The holiday season is quickly approaching and while many of us humans look forward to having bountiful quantities of our favourite foods, letting our pets join us in this habit could cause them more harm than good.

Pets are widely considered part of the family and during Christmas time it’s common for loving owners to want to let them join in the festivities with extra treats and helpings to Christmas dinner leftovers. However, this can be a big contributor to the apparent pet obesity crisis and in the PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report, veterinary professionals estimated nearly half (46 per cent) of pets they see are overweight or obese.

Similarly to humans, living with overweight or obesity can also have serious health implications for pets beyond effects on physical appearance including:

  • Diabetes
  • Shortened lifespan – by up to 2 years depending on the breed
  • Joint issues
  • Respiratory difficulties

There are many contributors to pet obesity including; lack of exercise, feeding scraps of human food, feeding above the recommended amounts for their breed/weight, and health issues. But prevention is key to healthy weight management and there are many steps owners can take to avoid their pets gaining too much weight:

1) Speak to your local vet about your dog’s ideal body weight – they can advise you on feeding amounts as they change from pups through to old age
2) Ensure they get enough exercise – this will depend on their size and breed type
3) Skip the table scraps – not all human food is safe for pets and some can even be deadly
4) Weigh your dog – even slight increases in weight can have a big impact on their health

Dr Hilda Mulrooney, dietitian and Associate Professor in Nutrition at Kingston University, London, advises that to maintain a healthy weight we should also remember:

  1. Awareness is the first step. Research shows the people who lose weight and keep it off successfully weigh themselves regularly – and owners should routinely weigh their pets to make sure they are in good health.
  2. Food is just one part of the problem. Obesity – for people and pets – is a complex issue with many contributing factors including genetics. However, avoiding “hidden” calories in popular drinks and pre-prepared meals can help, by reading labels and keeping track of food and drinks consumed
  3. Walk it out – the holiday season can see many exercise programmes fall by the wayside. It is important to maintain (and even increase) physical activity to balance out additional food consumed and walking your dog is a way to do this.

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