A DORSET vet says increasing numbers of furry patients are coming in to the practice with weight problems.

Vet Chris Devlin, partner at Hillside Veterinary Centre in Corfe Mullen, warned that over-feeding a pet means its lifespan will be shortened and it will face a host of health problems.

His comments follow a survey by national pet charity PDSA which found that more than one in five British dogs is obese.

Obese dogs can develop serious health issues such as heart problems, joint disease, a more rapid onset of arthritis and an increased risk of diabetes, said Chris.

It has prompted many veterinary practices, including Hillside and PDSA, to begin running weight reduction clinics for fat pets.

Chris said: "Increasingly we are seeing more and more overweight pets. It's becoming quite endemic. Certainly here I would say we see more overweight pets than we used to in the last four or five years.

"Interestingly it seems to be more overweight cats which we didn't tend to see. Owners are perhaps killing their pets with kindness by over-feeding."

There are lots of reasons why more pets are developing weight problems, said Chris.

Some pet foods on the market are fairly high in fat and pet food manufacturers are now producing some very palatable pet foods which animals want to eat more of.

Pets are often fed titbits at the table and some pets even get to share their owner's Friday night takeaway.

Chris added: "There are lots of reasons. Because pet food is so palatable I think the animals don't know when to stop. But some pet foods that are particularly yummy would be like eating a roast dinner every day.

"We had a classic case where a Jack Russell started putting on a lot of weight after its owner retired.

"We couldn't work out why the dog wasn't losing weight. It turned out that the gentleman was opening a large packet of digestives every morning and it was one for him and one for the dog.

"I've spoken to clients who give the dog pasta or curry."

People who think their pet may be overweight should pop to the local vet to get it weighed, said Chris.

Many problems can be sorted out through a five-minute chat, but more seriously overweight pets can be helped through the practice's weight watching clinic, he added.