The 2012 "Pet Fit Club" was a six-month weight loss program and competition for pets overseen by the U.K. veterinary charity PDSA. PDSA provides free veterinary care to sick and injured pets of people in need, and promotes responsible pet ownership. Their network includes 50 PetAid-associated hospitals and nearly 380 PetAid associated vet practices.
This year's Pet Fit Club winner was Jack, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who found a new home this year.
Starting weight: 45.2 lbs
Percent overweight: 105 percent
Ideal weight: 22 lbs
"Although I'd promised myself I wouldn't get another dog, I heard about a very overweight Spaniel that was in need of a good home and I couldn't bear to leave him to suffer, so I arranged to adopt him immediately," his new owner Rose Welsh said.
"When Jack arrived at our house he could barely walk, couldn't lie down comfortably and was constantly panting -- we were worried he wouldn't make it through the night. We entered Jack into Pet Fit Club as we wanted to raise awareness of the seriousness of this issue: owners may think they are showering their pets with love by giving them treats and extra food, but in reality they are slowly killing them with kindness."
"It's wonderful that we were able to give him this second chance; he may be eight years old now but for me his real life only started in January this year," his owner said. "I just want him to live as long and happy a life as possible. Winning the competition is fantastic, but the real prize is returning Jack full health, and that he's able to act like a proper dog now. And if Jack's story helps to prevent other pets from suffering as he did, then that's even better.
"My advice to anyone with a pet that's on the porky side is to go to your vet, and don't delay. They won't judge you, and can give you professional advice about a healthy target weight, how much to feed them, exercise, so that your pet can lose weight quickly and safely. Having regular monitoring and opportunities to ask questions was invaluable."
Fifi is an 8-year-old cat who knows how to be quick when it comes to stealing food.
Starting weight: 20.5 lbs
Percent overweight: 107 percent
Ideal weight: 9.9 lbs
Fifi was found nearly starved to death as a kitten before being taken in by her current owner. Her difficult start in life left her with a tendency to gorge herself at any opportunity.
Although her owner Monica put her on a diet, she discovered that Fifi had charmed an elderly neighbor into giving her food, milk and treats every day, as well as stealing food from the other neighborhood cats.
Finishing weight: 16.1 lbs
Total weight lost: 4.4 lbs (22 percent)
Waist decrease: 8.3 inches
"Fifi used to just plonk herself in one place and pretty much stay there, but now I regularly see her exploring the garden, skulking in the bushes and trying to stalk things. It's definitely enabled her to indulge in more cat-like behavior and she is a bit more independent and feisty," her owner said.
Molly is a Rottweiler who loves snacking on leftovers.
Starting weight: 144.6 lbs
Percent overweight: 65 percent
Ideal weight: 88.2 lbs
"Her weight has probably been an issue for a while but we didn't realize how serious it was until she had problems with her back legs and she couldn't stand up properly," owner Wayne Houlston said.
Owner Wayne said: "Molly has done brilliantly. She is a lot more energetic and can now keep up with the grandchildren. She is a lot happier and everyone remarks how well she is doing.
"My advice to other owners in a similar situation with an overweight pet is to speak to your vet to get their advice. I was in denial about how big Molly was. You've got to be strict with yourself. By giving them less food you feel as though you're neglecting your animal, but when you see the results it's a big boost."
Merlin the border collie had a penchant for biscuits.
Starting weight: 93 lbs
Percent overweight: 111 percent
Ideal weight: 40.1 lbs
"Pet Fit Club has been a great experience and Merlin has loved it," Merlin's owner said. "The hard part has been trying to stop Merlin pinching my other dog's food and stopping the treats. Merlin being happy and healthy is all that matters, so I'm really grateful that he was picked to take part in competition."
Maverick was the biggest cat PDSA doctors in Edinburgh, Scotland had ever seen.
Starting weight: 22.5 lbs
Percent overweight: 85 percent
Ideal weight: 12.1 lbs
When Maverick's family took him in, he was already an overweight stray. But, two years later, he's gotten even bigger.
"Maverick's extra weight is really affecting his well-being," owner Dee said. "He has trouble breathing and spends most of his time sleeping. I was really shocked when the vet said he is the biggest cat he'd ever seen. We really want Maverick to get back to a healthier weight, as we want the best for him and feel sorry for the poor wee man. He is such a wonderful pet and does get treated like a baby and we would be lost without him."
Finishing weight: 19.8 lbs
Total weight lost: 2.7 lbs (12 percent)
Waist decreased : 4.3 inches
"Maverick seems a lot happier now, although he doesn't like the reduced portions he gets! My hope is that he continues to go down the right track and lose weight so he's more healthy in the long term," his owner Dee said.
Three-year-old Deco likes to follow around the grandkids and scoop up whatever food they drop.
Starting weight: 97.7 lbs
Percent overweight: 27 percent
Ideal weight: 77.2 lbs
Deco is "incredibly greedy," and will eat anything he can get his paws on. He once stole and ate 36 buns that his owner's grandchildren had just baked, but oddly enough, he managed to leave all the paper cases lined up on the floor. His owners are very careful not to leave food out at all, and they've also politely asked the neighbors not to throw treats over the fence for him.
Deco's owners said they want to continue to lose weight and Deco is on track to reach his target weight. The dog is rather young, so they hope they can give him a long -- and healthy -- life.
He still begs for treats, however.
Billy is a Cocker spaniel with a passion for food, food and more food.
Starting weight: 51.6 lbs
Percent overweight: 34 percent
Ideal weight: 38.6 lbs
The 6-year-old pooch loves vegetables -- but only when they are covered with gravy. His owners cut down on portions, walked him three times a day, but he still didn't lose weight and was having a hard time going up the stairs.
"Billy runs around now without getting out of breath and is generally happier in everything he does," his owner said. "He definitely has a new spring in his step and I think he actually smiles."
Alfie has a sweet tooth and loves custard cremes.
Starting weight: 115.7 lbs
Percent overweight: 22 percent
Ideal weight: 94.8 lbs
Finishing weight: 113.8 lbs
Total weight lost: 2 lbs (2 percent)
Waist decrease: 0.8 inches
"Alfie is a lot healthier now and much more active," his owner explained. "He's built up a lot of muscle. The vets tell me that muscle weighs more than fat and that's the reason why, although he's lost weight, he's struggled to lose more. He's not limping anymore and he's not in as much pain."
Billie, a black and white tom cat, always had a big and unhealthy appetite.
Starting weight: 19.2 lbs
Percent overweight: 93 percent
Ideal weight: 9.9 lbs
"Billie is a lovely old gentleman who would eat all the time if I let him," owner Vilma Warren said. "His favorite meal is white fish, but even when he's just had his meal he still looks for more and it has been hard to deny him especially since we lost Bobby who had been his companion for 11 years. I'm sure he will enjoy life and maybe the great outdoors far more when he has lost a few excess pounds."
"Billie is a lot more active since he's lost weight, and loves to chase his ball," his owner said. "It's almost like he's a kitten again, and in fact he loves to play with the two kittens next door and it's wonderful to see him enjoying himself."
Bobby is a Mini Lop rabbit whose double chin made it hard for her to groom herself.
Starting weight: 5.3 lbs
Percent overweight: 49 percent
Ideal weight: 3.5 lbs
"When I noticed (she couldn't groom herself) I asked my vet about it, and she said that Bobby could do with losing a few pounds," his owner Becky Magson said. "I'm already quite careful with her food, making sure she has plenty of hay and very rarely giving her sugary treats like carrots, although I suspect she pinches some of her companion Huey's food when I'm not looking."
"It's clear that Bobby is so much happier now - she even does binkies now, which I never saw her do before," Becky said. (Non-rabbit owners, bunny binky videos abound on YouTube. Warning: They're adorable.) "She can also groom herself properly and is much more alert. Her relationship with my other rabbit, Lucy, has blossomed and they have become great playmates, and this has also had the added benefit of increasing Bobby's activity levels," her owner explained.
Casper was rescued when she was a flea-infested, underweight kitten in a home overrun by cats. Since then, she's always been hungry no matter what she eats.
Starting weight: 19 lbs
Percent overweight: 91 percent
Ideal weight: 9.9 lbs
Casper lives with fellow feline Cracker, who is the perfect weight for his size, and a super-trim Jack Russell terrier called Timmy, meaning there is always lots of food around for a greedy cat to steal. Christine has now resorted to feeding Cracker on top of the freezer, as Casper is too fat to jump up and steal the food from there. But he still steals the dog biscuits if he gets the opportunity.
Finishing weight: 15.3 lbs
Total weight lost: 3.6 lbs (19 percent)
Waist decrease: 5.1 lbs
"Casper is so much more active now -- he runs and jumps, and he loves to play and chase our other cat which he never did before. He's definitely much happier and will hopefully live to a grand old age now. He can also groom himself properly now, as he struggled before," his owner said.
Dexter started to gain flab after he got neutered.
Starting weight: 48.2 lbs
Percent overweight: 90 percent
Ideal weight: 26.5 lbs
Finishing weight: 44.3 lbs
Total weight lost: 3.9 lbs (8 percent)
Waist decrease: 4.3 inches
"I have enjoyed taking part in the competition and although Dexter's not lost a huge amount of weight, he seems like a totally different dog. He's got a much higher exercise tolerance than he did before and that's great when we're going on walks," his owner said.
Max is a 2-year-old Labrador whose owners admit they gave him too many treats.
Starting weight: 118.6 lbs
Percent overweight: 58 percent
Ideal weight: 75 lbs
Max always got extra portions and treats, but really let himself go after he was neutered. He's also known to sulk for days if he doesn't get his favorite treat.
"He loves long walks with me along the beach now, whereas before he'd only last about ten minutes before getting tired -- now he runs out in front," his owner said.
"Max took to the diet really well; he never really got many treats anyway so we just had to adjust his portion sizes. We didn't realize how much we were over-feeding him before, but with advice from the vet it was really easy to get this right. We'll be continuing with the diet and the regular weight checks until he gets to his perfect weight."
Mini Moo before
Mini Moo is a morbidly obese cat.
Starting weight: 21.4 lbs
Percent overweight: 94 percent
Ideal weight: 11 lbs
Mini Moo before
Mini Moo's owner got sick and had a hard time taking care of the cat.
"Moo's weight problems started when I was diagnosed with lupus, an immune system illness, a few years ago," the owner said. "The illness means I need to rest and while Moo is fantastic company, lying on the sofa with me and giving me cuddles, unfortunately it has led to her gaining an enormous amount of weight. I have two other cats that are a healthy shape, but Moo's size has got out of control."
"Mini Moo is so much happier now, she loves going out in the garden now and is a lot more active, plus she's more feisty," her owner said. "It has been a bit of a battle of wills as she steals food at any opportunity and she continues to beg, but I've changed my mindset now and I give her alternative treats like catnip, or playtime, as I never want her to get that big again."
Romeo is a 4-year-old Labrador who loves to snack.
Starting weight: 130 pounds
Percent overweight: 47 percent
Ideal weight: 88.2 pounds
Romeo was guilty of eating his daily portion of dog food, plus scraps and treats -- and leftovers, when he was given them.
Finishing weight: 112.9 lbs
Total weight lost: 17.1 lbs (13 percent)
Waist decrease: 4.3 inches
"Romeo was already having two walks a day before we started the Pet Fit Club diet and now he enjoys the walks so much he actually has spurts of energy where he seems to want to run!" owner Lorette said. "He accepted the diet as he has always accepted any food and that's with great relish. But he misses his treats and is never far away when meals are put on the table. I must admit to feeling a little guilty that I can't give him anything even though I know resisting those big brown eyes is in Romeo's best interest."
"I intend to continue with the diet to help Romeo achieve his goal. We enjoy going for walks and it's our special time together. I know some owners think it's a chore but playing fetch and walking briskly is good for him and it keeps me fit too. I can see he is slimmer and his back and waist are more defined and I'm so proud of him. More than that, I know he is a fantastic dog with a super personality and I want him to be happy and healthy and enjoy the longest life possible."
Springer Spaniel Skippy was guilty of begging for scraps and snacking on Sunday Roast.
Starting weight: 70.1 pounds
Percentage overweight: 45 percent
Ideal weight: 48.5 pounds
"He's one of the family and we just want to do the best for him. The weight has crept on gradually over time but for the good of his health he needs to slim down," owner Marilyn Smith said.
Skippy's owner Marilyn said: "In the beginning he didn't want to eat the diet food and we had to persuade him to tuck in, but in the last three months he's been fine. I've really enjoyed it and I'm very pleased with what Skippy's achieved and the amount of weight he's lost. As a result, he's a lot brighter and a lot fitter and he runs around a lot more than he did before. He's so much more alert."