This is Elwood, a charming British bulldog who wasn’t happy when owner Rachel Nixon put him on a diet.
year on and five kilos lighter, Elwood is healthier and happier, even if the Nixons struggled to deprive him of his favourite treats.
They are just one of many families in Belfast whose pet pooches piled on the pounds through overfeeding.
According to a survey by the pet food company Naturo, a third of dogs in the city are overweight after being given too many treats in lockdown.
Elwood, a seven-year-old rescue bulldog, is owned by data analyst Rachel (39), her auditor husband Paul (40), daughter Beth (5) and two-year-old twins Eve and Ada.
This time last year, during a routine visit to the vet, Rachel was horrified to learn that Ellwood’s health was at risk because he was seriously overweight.
Bringing his eating under control was a struggle for the family, as she explains: “Elwood is a real character. He is a bit of a baby and very much a mummy’s boy. He is lazy. When you take him for a walk, he runs around for about 10 minutes then stands still, refuses to walk and just wants to go home again.
“There is not enough attention in the world for him as he would be touching you all day long if you would let him.
“He just loves to eat all the time, and when we are eating, all you see are these big, pleading eyes. You couldn’t possibly deny him a share. I would have given him whatever I was eating and the kids would have given him their leftovers. We had no idea he was so overweight as it had accumulated over time.”
Rachel was told that Elwood needed to lose five kilos.
When the vet explained the impact on his health the extra weight was having, she was shocked but determined to stick to a strict new food plan.
“It was a shock when the vet spelt out what it meant for Elwood,” she says.
“He is a short-snouted dog and would have difficulty breathing at the best of times, but with the extra weight, it would have been incredibly dangerous because of his breathing if he had to go under anaesthetic.
“Also, bulldogs are small, squat dogs that carry most of their weight on their back legs and this was putting terrible stress on his joints.
“We just thought that all we were doing [by giving him too much food] was loving him.
“I was surprised at the impact on his quality of life and I just felt awful.”
Rationing Elwood’s food to less than half of what he had been getting every day and cutting out all treats was not easy, but the family managed it and Elwood lost five kilos in eight months.
They still mostly maintain his strict diet but have been able to introduce a few treats again.
“He is a lot happier and we can see that he is also healthier,” says Rachel.
“It hasn’t been easy for him. He would have eaten his new portion in under 10 seconds and looked at us as if to say ‘Where’s the rest?’.
“Bacon is his absolute favourite food and we had to cut it out completely, but now we give him a little bit once a week. It doesn’t surprise me that a third of Belfast dogs are overweight because we know how easily it can happen.
“Dogs are part of the family and we tend to show our love for them by giving them food treats.”
Naturo Natural Pet Food spoke to dog owners across all regions of the UK for its study.
With 33 percent, Belfast was eighth in a league table of the cities with the most overweight dogs.
Oxford topped the table at 47 percent, while Southampton brought up the rear on 20 percent.
The increase in pooch pounds was mostly down to owners buying treats (43 percent).
Almost 35 percent admitted their dogs were so spoilt, they ate what they liked.
Ten percent said they were treating their pets even more because they were only able to get out once a day during lockdown.
- Learn more about the study at www.naturopetfoods.com/blog/post/pandemic-pooch-pounds