NEW YORK, January 15 /PRNewswire/ --

Up to 40% of domestic pet dogs in Europe could be overweight or clinically obese, according to veterinarians; some US vets say the figures are very much higher.

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It is a hidden problem for many owners -- they simply do not realise that their dog is heavier than it should be. UK practitioner Andy Green from the Pennard Veterinary Practice in Kent says: "They are not aware of gradual weight gain until they bring their dogs in for check-ups and see over time how much their dog has gained weight."

Excessive weight can shorten a dog's life by up to two years, impair its quality of life, and contribute to medical problems such as heart and lung disease, arthritis and joint problems, as well as diabetes. Owners who are concerned about their dog's weight are being encouraged to visit the vet.

Vets say that excessive weight is a clinical issue; owners are usually advised to reduce the animal's weight, through a combination of exercise and diet.

For those dogs, which do not respond to diet and exercise, clinical help is now available through the vet in the form of a weight loss product. The product works by decreasing the dogs' appetites, making it easier for owners to introduce new long-term diet and exercise behaviours. The drug was introduced to the US eight months ago and is just being launched in Europe.

Dr. Scott McComb DVM, one of many US veterinary surgeons now using the drug as a weight loss aid, said: "Pet owners need to see the benefits of their efforts, see the benefit of weight loss, or their owner behaviours will never change."

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