Nearly two million dogs in Britain are overweight as obesity levels soar in our pets, a leading charity has warned
Many animals are experiencing problems such as heart disease, breathing difficulties, diabetes and arthritis which is causing their quality of life to be drastically reduced.
A report by PDSA, the veterinary charity, found that almost one in three dogs is currently overweight, an increase of nine per cent over the last year.
Owners have been blamed for taking their dogs for fewer walks and for giving them treats when they want attention rather than playing with them.
Many people have a distorted image of what their pet should look like and believe their animal to be of healthy size when it is actually much larger than average, vets have said.
The charity has drawn up a map to show the levels of canine obesity in Britain and it coincides with obesity problems in humans and the areas with most overweight people have the most overweight pets. This would suggest that owners' lifestyle habits are affecting their pets although a direct study linking the two has not yet been carried out.
The north-west of England was found to have the worst problem with 31 per cent of dogs classified as overweight shortly followed by the Midlands at 29 per cent.
A recent study on obesity in men and women by Portsmouth University found that the West Midlands had the highest figures with up to 22 per cent in some areas. London has the slimmest dogs, according to the PDSA report, with just 19 per cent classified as overweight.
The report was based on 9,000 dogs that were assessed at voluntary pet health checks across the country in 2007 and 2006. A total of 30 per cent of the animals were found to be overweight, the equivalent of 1.95 million when this figure is applied to the 6.5 million dogs living in Britain.
Elaine Pendlebury, senior veterinary surgeon at PDSA, said: "Levels of dog obesity have risen greatly in the past few years. "If a dog wants attention, owners should be taking it out for a walk or playing with it rather than throwing them a bit of food from their plate.
"Dogs should really be walked at least two times a day for between two or 10 miles, depending on the breed, but our increasingly inactive lifestyles mean that we are reluctant to do this.
"Many people seem to have a distorted image of what their pet should look like and believe that they should look like a plump, healthy Labrador even if their breed is much smaller."
Obesity is also likely to shorten a dog's life expectancy and studies have found that an obese Labrador would live two years less than average.