Dog owners spark arthritis epidemic by feeding their pets too many scraps

One in three dogs are overweight.

One in three dogs are overweight.

Britain's pet dogs are suffering an epidemic of arthritis - and owners feeding them titbits is partly to blame, say experts.

New figures show the number of treatments for arthritis in dogs - which can cost up to £3,000 a year - have more than trebled since 2015.

The precise causes of the epidemic are unclear, but veterinary experts say that obesity is likely to be a significant factor.

Sean Wensley, President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), said overfeeding and too many titbits are to blame.

"It would be difficult to know the exact cause of any rise but it is entirely plausible that we are experiencing a pet obesity epidemic, with increasing numbers of pets - including dogs - that are overweight or obese," he said.

"And we know that carrying excess weight is a clear risk factor for arthritis."

An estimated one in three dogs are overweight or obese and around one in four cats.

Mr Wensley added: "The chief reason is that owners are giving their pets excess or inappropriate food.

"Increasingly, people are feeding their dogs good quality so-called 'complete' pet foods, which contain the right nutrients in the right proportions - but not necessarily in the right amounts.

"In addition, family members and friends regularly give dogs treats and scraps - each slipping a little bit here and there.

"This can include all manner of food intended for humans - like cheese, chips, curry, scones and cakes.

"Pets have relatively small bodies compared to us and can really struggle to burn off the excess calories that they are being given."

Regular exercise is also vital, he added. "It's good for their well being and quality of life as well as just their physical health."

However, he said that not all dogs with arthritis have been overfed.

Today, many are living longer - and arthritis is a disease linked with old age. There is also a greater awareness of the condition than there was a few years ago.

Dog-owners who think their pet may have arthritis should always contact their local vet, he advises.

The arthritis statistics come from leading pet insurer AnimalFriends.co.uk, which analysed 20,000 dog health records.

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