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Fat cats chaos - and fat dogs too!
-but North West pets are the fittest

WHILST THE obesity epidemic threatening the health of the nation continues to give cause for concern, the trend has spread to family pets, a leading animal charity revealed this week.

Dogs, cats and even smaller animals such as rabbits, gerbils and hamsters are suffering from heart disease and diabetes because, like their owners, their diet is poor and they do not get enough exercise.

In Scotland, where heart disease rates are among the highest, cats are more likely to be diabetic than anywhere else in the country and Scottish dogs come second in the national pet league for heart disease.

Welsh cats and dogs fare better and are the least likely to suffer from heart disease or diabetes, according to a survey by the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA).

Meanwhile, for heart disease and diabetes hot spots shows that in England, dogs and cats in the south east were most prone to both diseases while the north west saw the lowest scores for either disease.

The survey, which looked at 245,000 pets in hospitals run by the PDSA, found that one in 22 dogs and one in 43 cats has heart disease and that one in every 169 pets suffers from diabetes. One dog in 100 and one cat in 182 is diabetic.

Just as obese children are becoming the victims of diseases more commonly seen in middle aged and elderly people, pets are also suffering the effects of modern living.

Pets tend to share a family's lifestyle, so in households where sweet and savoury snacks abound and exercise is virtually non-existent, dogs are eating too much and getting too fat.

While cats usually eat only when they need to, those who are shut in flats and houses have less opportunity to exercise and also put on weight, according to the PDSA.

The survey, based on the medications prescribed to sick animals by the charity, involved 156,395 dogs and 70,901 cats. The remaining were rabbits, hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs.

Rabbits and hamsters are also prone to overeat in some households and can suffer both from heart disease and diabetes, although these conditions are still rare in smaller animals.

"We do see elderly hamsters with heart disease. They get out of breath on their wheels.' We would usually tell the owner to take the wheel out when they have a hamster that goes blue," said Elaine Pendlebury, a senior veterinary surgeon at the PDSA.

"But you have to be careful with diets. A sudden reduction can cause liver disease in little animals,'' she added.

Miss Pendlebury said: "Diet is really important for a healthy pet.

''Too many people are killing the pets they love with kindness.''