Did you know that over half the dogs in the UK are overweight?
Research by the Pet Food Manufacturers Association among 277 vets and 8000 UK households found that 100 per cent of vets were worried about pet obesity.
A staggering 44 per cent of cats, 51 per cent of dogs and 29 per cent of small furries are obese.
And three quarters of vets said they feared obesity levels have increased over the last five years.
Yet 68 per cent of owners think their pet is the right weight, and 67 per cent said they weren’t concerned about pet obesity.
Only eight per cent admitted their pet needed to lose weight, 12 per cent said they felt they needed to lose a small amount and 57 per cent had never discussed weight with their vet.
The figures show an alarming gulf between what we as owners see as a healthy weight compared to the views of vets.
So what can we do? Education is key and owners need to be aware of their pet’s weight and learn ways to help them reach and maintain a healthy weight.
Sarah Robinson from Frank and Jelly’s is trying to tackle the issue with her Get Pets Fit campaign.
What is the Gets Pet Fit Campaign?
It’s a resolution to help your dog live a healthier life.
One of the most popular resolutions for us is to lose weight, eat healthier and exercise more so why not your dog too?
Get Pets Fit aims to educate dog owners during January about how to help their dog live a healthier lifestyle on a budget.
It’s for all dog owners whether or not they have a super fit and healthy dog or a senior dog who is less active.
The campaign will provide expert advice on small changes that could have a huge impact on dog’s wellbeing.
Where did the idea for Get Pets Fit come from?
We love our dogs. They’re family members and we wan to give them a great quality of life so they can live as long as possible.
There are so many conflicting messages about how we should be feeding and taking care of our pets and this has lead to complete overwhelm.
Many owners are confused about what to feed and how much exercise their dog needs and we want to give them clarity on this.
Over half the dogs in the UK are overweight which means high vet bills and insurance costs for owners.
My own pet insurance for two healthy bulldogs has doubled in a year and I’ve never made a single claim.
It’s pressure on vets too. Our vets and vet nurses study relentlessly and enter into the profession to heal and to save those that are sick.
But financial pressures make it hard for them too. They work long hours and are under pressure from pet owners who care deeply for their pets but often ignore advice.
I think the problem is that overweight is now being perceived as normal isn’t it?
Yes, most owners don’t know how to spot when their pet is overweight.
We’ve really changed the way we look after our bodies and are more health conscious and we need to think in the same way for our pets.
They have no control over what they eat and rely upon us solely to make the right decisions for them.
What can people do if they want to get involved in Get Pets Fit?
People can head to www.getpetsfit.com where they can sign up for daily email advice or they can follow @frankandjellys on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter
We want people to have as much fun as possible while doing something good for their dogs and we want to celebrate those moments together.
We’re asking people to tag us in their photos and use the hashtag #getpetsfit and build a community where we can support and encourage each other.
Can you tell us about the experts you have onboard and the kind of support they’ll be giving pet owners?
Yes, when I started this campaign I took myself back to how I was when I first brought my dog Frank home in 2014.
I wanted to be the best owner possible, so I thought about the journey I went on.
As dog owners we have experts we can turn to, such as vets, trainers, other experienced dog owners and businesses who offer services to dogs.
So I wanted to think of every scenario to bring in the best people qualified to help. Not everyone can afford to get 1-1 advice.
We have TV vet Rory Cowlam to talk about dog’s general health and the impact that health can have on their body in the long term.
We have an author and dog nutritionist to guide owners on how they can make healthy and balanced meals for their dogs at home.
There are trainers and a behaviourist to guide those dogs who need a little more support with their dog’s behaviour.
Plus we have people who offer alternative therapy such as massage and hydrotherapy to highlight the benefits of these.
We have tried to cover everything a dog owner would need and plan to deliver it for free.
Usually, they would have to spend hours researching solutions and pay significant amounts of money.
Our aim with it is to provide all owners with a great foundation of knowledge as we believe every dog should have an equal opportunity for a happy and healthy life.
What’s the message behind the campaign?
The key message is that how we aspire to take care of ourselves is how we should aspire to take care of our dogs.
Our needs are not hugely different and as the saying goes ‘what you see on the outside is a direct reflection of what is going on on the inside.’
Do you have a goal you would like to achieve?
Our key aim is to see owners continue with the advice we have shown them long after the month of January and to make lifestyle changes.
It’s not all about weight loss, although it would be amazing to see dogs who do need to lose weight start on that journey,
It’s about the foundation of good health as your dog can appear to be healthy by weight but what is going on the inside might be a different story.
Another goal is to see many dogs reduce their need for medication for preventible conditions such as steroids.
Also, it’s to offer support to owners who might be struggling with behavioural issues with their dogs which can make them feel helpless and isolated.
We hope the campaign helps owners build an even stronger bond with their dog and create a happier and healthier home life for the all the family.
There’s health benefits for the owners too isn’t there by getting fitter together?
Yes we hope encouraging owners to be more mindful about their dog’s diet and exercise will make them think about how they care for themselves too.
Dogs and humans are very similar. We gain confidence from learning a new skill – such as brain training game or trick or taking up a new hobby.
Being in the fresh air gives us endorphins and we enjoy seeing new places and having new experiences.
There are some owners who look after their dogs better than themselves but we want to encourage them to also value themselves in the same way.
We hope sharing all the fantastic things we know will encourage a healthier lifestyle for both and have wonderful impacts on their physical and mental health.
If people sign up, what do they get from it?
Owners will have access to information and experts that would have been off-limits or would have cost a lot of money to learn.
We also have a prize bundle that’s currently worth £400 with more prizes being added every day.
The response we’ve had from pet brands to our idea has been fantastic.
We have dog beds, bowls, treats, indoor playing toys, raw dog food, treats, t-shirts, health products, digital courses, free Skype training session and so much more.
We will choose a winner at random who has used the hashtag #getpetsfit multiple times during the month of January.
The more times a person has used the hashtag and shown their commitment to the challenge the more chance they have of winning.
For more information go to http://www.getpetsfit.com/
If you enjoyed this article, you might like to read Behind the scenes at the Liverpool University Pet Weight Management Clinic , Five ways to help your dog lose weight and keep you fit too, or How to run with your dog with Lara from Dogfit.