Vets step up the battle against obesity in our pets

Radish, an overweight border terrier with (left) clinical director Jen Sinclair and veterinary nurse

Radish, an overweight border terrier with (left) clinical director Jen Sinclair and veterinary nurse Simonne Bell, at the London Road Veterinary Practice, in King's Lynn Picture: Chris Bishop - Credit: Archant

Obesity is a growing problem in our pets, say Norfolk vets who are running special clinics for fat cats and podgy pooches.

Too many treats and our modern-day lifestyles are making our four-legged friends pack the pounds on.

Now London Road and Hollies Vets, based in King's Lynn and Downham Market, is running free weight clinics with veterinary nurses to combat the problem.

Its clinical director Jen Sinclair said: "It's a huge problem in cats and dogs but we're seeing it in all our patients, even rabbits.

"It can cause problems like arthritis, joint diseases, heart disease. Because our pets are living longer, we're seeing it can really affect their quality of life."

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Dr Sinclair said diet was the main cause of weight gain, with treats the main offender.

"We all have this tendency to be caring towards our pets, we like to treat them," she said. "But sometimes we can go a little bit too far. Sometimes we have to be cruel to be kind."

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Nurse Simonne Bell specialises in dietary issues at the practice's King's Lynn branch.

"A big issue is people have busier lives now than they used to," she said. "So pets might not be getting the exercise they need."

Mrs Bell scores pets' body weight from one to nine, with nine being obese, before working out a target weight, reccomended diet and exercise regime with the owner. Animals attend surgery for fortnightly check-ups, while owners are taught to count the calories in their pet's food.

While they do not want to ban treats entirely and weaken the bond between animal and owner, vets suggest healthier treats in moderation as they step up the fight to keep our four-legged friends in trim.

"It's more obvious in dogs but most of the cats I see are overweight," said Dr Sinclair. "That goes for rabbits and guinea pigs as well. We see quite large rabbits coming in.

"We have all kinds of treats and foods available for our small furries but they need a lot of hay, their body size in hay and a small amount of hard food."

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