PDSA tells pet owners to make sure we are keeping them healthy

The Northern Echo: A woman takes her dog for a walk A woman takes her dog for a walk

PEOPLE love their pets, but are not doing enough to keep them healthy, a leading animal charity has claimed. Duncan Leatherdale reports.

I SHALL always remember the day the love I held for my cat Padfoot was most severely tested.

He had scaled a rather wobbly shelving unit which was home to my treasured DVD collection, and, as if in slow motion, I saw him leap towards my TV in a graceful arch, the motion of which caused said shelves to teeter and topple all over my coffee table.

It was a most inspiring leap followed by an almighty thud as he performed a perfect landing upon my telly, and the noise of plastic cases splitting open and discs scattering across the living room was equally impressive.

Yet, even as I cursed this ginger creature now nonchalantly licking his outstretched rear leg and lazily looking at me as if to say “now clean that mess up”, I knew I would not stay angry for long – he was just too loveable.

According to the PDSA, who have surveyed thousands of pet owners, vets and the like for the annual PDSA Animal Wellbeing (Paw) report, we love our pets but are not doing nearly enough to keep them healthy.

And Pat Kingsnorth, owner of the Ark on the Edge animal sanctuary at Woodland in Teesdale, County Durham, said people are simply not doing enough research before they get their pets, which in many cases is leading to them giving their away their animals.

She said this year has been the worst she has known in her 40 years running the sanctuary for the number of people giving away animals because they can no longer look after them.

Ms Kingsnorth said that was due in part to financial problems and people having to move to smaller homes due to the Government’s controversial spare bedroom policy (known by critics as the Bedroom Tax), but the main reason still seems to be people not knowing what they are taking on when they get a pet.

She said: “They see baby animals, like kittens and puppies, and think they are very cute, but once the animals grow up some people seem to lose interest.

“They forget that the animals need to be properly cared for and kept clean, and the number of animals being brought to us has actually made me cry this year.

“People need to properly research what having an animal involves, and that needs to be done before they actually get one.

“They need to look at what they will need to do to keep the pet healthy for its whole life, not just when it is small and cute.”

The PDSA survey, which was produced in partnership with YouGov, found that poor care is resulting in animals becoming ill, lonely, aggressive, stressed and obese.

In the North-East, less than half of owners are familiar with the Animal Welfare Act and the five animal welfare needs, which are a suitable place to live, the right diet, the ability to display normal behaviour, appropriate companionship and protection from pain, suffering and disease.

The report has also revealed that around half of pets in the region aren’t microchipped and 58 per cent are not insured. They are also missing out on basic health care, with a fifth never receiving life-saving vaccinations.

What is not in question is the love people have for their pets; the report shows that 88 per cent of owners believe the UK is a nation of animal lovers and an overwhelming 91 per cent of the public believe it is important to regularly monitor pet wellbeing.

But saying it is different for doing it, according to Nicola Martin, PDSA’s Head of Pet Health and Welfare, who is promoting a new online health check pet owners can completed on the charity’s website.

She said: “By answering a few simple questions about their pet’s life, owners will get advice on how to improve their pet’s wellbeing.

“We want to help the public turn their affection for their pets into positive action to help make a better life for the UK’s pet population.”

Nationally, around 2.7m dogs are not getting daily off the lead exercise, an increase of 600,000 since 2011.

This coupled with 53 per cent of dog owners giving their pets human food leftovers rather than specific animal food, is resulting in podgy pooches.

The proportion of dogs left alone for five hours or more on a regular basis has increased significantly from 18 per cent to 25 per cent - leaving around 1.9 million UK dogs home alone for longer than recommended which can lead to excessive barking and destructive behaviour.

Cats are not faring much better, with one in four being classed obese due to their food levels not being properly monitored.

And around 2.3m cats have not received basic vaccines against potentially fatal diseases such as cat flu and Feline Leukaemia Virus.

For more information on how to keep your pet healthy visit abetterlifeforpets.org.uk.

My advice would be to keep them off the DVD tower.

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