With recent government health warnings, many of us will be looking to shed a few extra pounds, but do not forget our pets.

Around 50% of our pets are overweight and this leads to heart disease, joint problems and arthritis, diabetes, reduced exercise tolerance, reduction in ability to withstand infections and slower recovery from surgery.

It can be as cruel to overfeed an animal as underfeed. Overfeeding is the main cause of obesity in pets, but sometimes in dogs low thyroid function or hypothyroidism can be to blame.

Neutering pets improves their food conversion efficiency, meaning that they can put on weight more easily; this can easily be avoided by reducing their food intake by 10% following neutering, or even using some of the latest neutered pet diets that are available.

To check for obesity in your pet try the following:

* Standing above your pet there should be a visible indentation in the body wall from the ribs to the waist

* Feel the ribcage; you should be able to feel each rib (though they must not be too prominent), obese animals have too much fat to be able to distinguish their individual ribs.

* Look at the groin area; large pouches are common in overweight cats If you are in doubt, an examination by your veterinary surgeon will reveal the truth! Fortunately dieting pets is very straightforward.

An examination by your vet is essential before commencing dieting, and there are lots of ways that they can make the whole process easier.

Low calorie diets are the most common way of reducing weight; the vet simply advises the correct amount of food to feed and weight checks are carried out every 2 weeks to see the results.

There are even special medications that can be used in some cases to reduce pets weight.

The vet will also give practical advice to assist in weight loss, and these simple tips will increase success:

– Feed 3-4 meals daily rather than 1 large meal.

Feed your pet the set amount of food as directed by your veterinary surgeon; weigh it out to prevent cheating!!

Exercise your pet regularly; cats can be encouraged to exercise using toys and playing.

Put your pet in another room away from you whilst you are eating, so you are not tempted by them begging.

Strict adherence to their diet and no extras to be fed during the diet period; if extras have to be given feed part of their daily ration only.

Take care that your dog does not scavenge, keep bins secure!

Once your pet has reached its correct weight low calorie diets are often used to maintain their optimum weight.Your pet will live a longer and healthier life.