Although many owners may think they are 'treating' their pets by giving them food which they like to eat, research highlights that they are seriously harming their dog.

According to the 2012 PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report, which was carried out conjunction with YouGov, 48 per cent of owners admit to giving their pets treats because they think it will make their dog happy and 29 per cent confess that it's only to make themselves feel better.

The charity claims that more than 18 million pets are being given unhealthy diets and 13.5 million are regularly given fatty foods like takeaways, crisps and cakes. Like humans, being overweight can cause health problems with animals like arthritis, diabetes and heart disease and lower life expectancy.

"Vet practices across the UK see the consequences of pet obesity every single day such as obese dogs unable to enjoy regular walks due to exhaustion, fat cats that can't jump or play, and rabbits so hopelessly overweight they can't clean themselves properly," said PDSA vet Elaine Pendlebury.

In a bid to get obese dogs to shed those extra pounds, the PDSA is launching an annual slimming competition to encourage owners to improve their dog's diet and increase the amount of exercise their pet is getting on a daily basis. It's also important that many people are aware of the damage they are doing to their animals.

As the research indicates, nearly half of pet owners think they are doing something nice, when actually, they could be killing their dog with kindness. Whether your pet has dry dog food or not, it's important that they receive a balanced diet.

"Diet is one of the most misunderstood welfare need for pet but it’s never too late to make a positive change and over the years the pets taking part in our Pet fit Club competition have all been given a new lease of life. Owners have reported that once their pet has lost weight it has made their pet much happier as well as healthier," said Ms Pendlebury.

The PDSA is looking for 30 overweight dogs, cats and rabbits to take part in the free six-month diet and exercise programme which will be monitored by PDSA vets and vet nurses.

Written by: Hannah