Portly Pets Put on Pounds

Chum is a 5-year-old Labrador with a taste for pigs' ears. His owner, Sharon Best, and her three sons, showered him with too much love, and fed him too many pigs' ears. Chum ballooned to 85 pounds.

British TV veterinarian Joe Inglis estimates that 60 percent of pets in the United Kingdom are overweight. "I think it's the biggest health problem affecting our pets," he said.

Inglis launched a roadshow to raise awareness. He also launched a Web site called Pets Get Slim, which offers helpful tips and awards prizes to top weight losers. Being fat is just as bad for dogs as it is for their owners. Inglis' message is: Do your pet a favor, and don't give in to a wagging tail.

Owners are "essentially killing their animal with kindness," Claire Ponsford at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said. "It is ... a form of cruelty, and it is a prosecutable offense."

When the RSPCA discovered Rusty, an 161-pound Labrador, it took his owners to court. The judge likened poor old Rusty to a walrus, and fined his feeders $2,000.

Nothing so drastic for Chum. Just a strict diet. One bowl of dry biscuits a day.

"I didn't want to lose him before I had to," Best said.

It worked. Chum shed 11 pounds, and is well on his way to his target weight of 62 pounds.

"And he's getting more playful as he's losing the weight," Best said. "He's happier."

So, how can you tell if your pooch is too portly?

If you can rest a drink on his broad back, if you can't see his ribs and, said Inglis, "If the pet hasn't got a nice clearly defined waist behind the ribs, that's another sign."

Also, fat dogs are listless and lazy. They chew bones but don't chase sticks.

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