New research published by Direct Line Pet Insurance reveals even our dogs now gorge on junk food, giving rise to fears of a pet obesity epidemic.

The research shows that millions of dogs are scoffing human treats on a regular basis, with a third (33 per cent) of pet owners admitting to feeding their four-legged friend snacks like crisps and chocolate, most of which are unhealthy and some potentially toxic.

Over 1.3 million dogs (15 per cent) have been fed crisps and almost as many (1.1 million) have enjoyed pizza. Dogs are even being fed takeaways, with over a third of a million animals tucking into deep fried chicken from KFC (4 per cent) and the same number being fed food from McDonald’s. In fact, over 2.3 million (27 per cent) owners feed their dog human food instead of pet food.

Edward Barclay, head of pet insurance at Direct Line, commented: “Fast food takeaways can be extremely dangerous for dogs, who love to rummage through leftover containers in search of a tasty morsel. Direct Line’s own veterinary nurses have seen cases of dogs that have needed urgent medical attention after digesting fried chicken bones, or even whole corn on the cobs, which have resulted in severe digestive problems.”

Disturbingly the research also shows six per cent of dog owners have given their pet alcohol. Pet owners are gambling with the health of their animals, as ingesting even small amounts can result in life-threatening toxicity for dogs.

According to the study, half (50 per cent) of pet owners that smoke do so in the same room as their dog and a quarter (25 per cent) expose their pet to the second hand fumes of more than six cigarettes a day. Pet owners that smoke are allowing their dogs to inhale worrying doses of harmful chemicals, with 13 per cent consuming over 16 cigarettes a day with their pet shut in the same enclosed environment.

Edward Barclay continued: “Unfortunately, some dog owners are literally killing their pets with kindness. What is a tasty treat for humans can cause fatal reactions in dogs, or contribute to long term health problems. While Timmy in the Famous Five might have licked the plates clean, vets recommend against feeding leftovers such as pizza slices and chips.

“The anatomy of dogs means they are extremely sensitive to smoke and there is the additional risk of nicotine poisoning if they chew butts or cigarette packets left lying around. Likewise, owners should be careful leaving electronic cigarettes on tables or in the plug, charging. We always want to be around our furry companions but if you’re smoking, it’s better to step outside. Responsible pet owners should recognise the importance of providing a healthy diet and environment for their animals as well as having sufficient pet insurance cover, or funds available, in case their dog needs treatment.”

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