An overweight labrador from St Helens has been picked for a nationwide pet slimming competition.
Nine cats and dogs who are massively overweight are about to embark upon a six-month diet and exercise challenge.
The latest batch of recruits have been signed up to the PDSAPet Fit Club, with the winner receiving a year's supply of healthy food and an animal-friendly holiday.
The national competition sees each pet receive a plan tailored to their individual needs.
It has been running for 14 years and has helped more than 100 pets lose over 75 stone since 2005.
Among the contestants this year is seven-year-old Alfie, a Labrador from St Helens who is nearly double his ideal weight at 9st 7lb.
Alfie's opponents include Bonnie, a spaniel from Blackpool whose penchant for sausage rolls has left her 7.7kg overweight, while Sox, a large cat from Gateshead, once got stuck in a child's safety gate due to her size.
The pets will receive free weight management food from the SPECIFIC range during the competition, and will be overseen by the vet team at their local PDSA Pet Hospital.
PDSA vet Rebecca Ashman said Pet Fit Club is "a great example of what can be achieved if owners are dedicated and determined to help their pets live a healthier lifestyle".
She added: "If owners are worried about their pet's weight they should seek advice from their vet or vet nurse, who can also make sure pets are on the right type of diet, are being fed the correct amount, and recommend ways to increase exercise levels."
Last year's winners Borris and Sadie - both dogs - lost 25% of their body weight during the competition.
Weighing in at a whopping 60.75kg (9 stone 7lb), Alfie has scoffed and snoozed his way to being 90% overweight. He needs to lose a colossal 28.75kg (4 stone 7lb) to reach his ideal weight of 32kg (5 stone 1lb).
Alfie’s owner, Antony Mather (75), from St Helens, Merseyside, says Alfie’s unrelenting appetite and hard-to-resist puppy-dog eyes have led to his sumo size.
“He eats everything and anything, and we find it hard to handle his huge appetite. We’ve tried so many diets and, so far, nothing has worked. We’ve even had blood tests to check there’s no medical problems causing it, but they all came back clear, so we’re at a loss as to why he’s so big and always hungry.”
Alfie goes on twice-daily walks but his excess weight on his joints means these quickly turn into a very slow plod, rather than anything more energetic, says Anthony.
“When we’re eating dinner he’ll sit there staring at you with his big puppy-dog eyes and starts drooling until you give him some food. Those eyes are going to be hard to resist but I know that his health is suffering and the excess weight is endangering his life. He’s showing some signs of arthritis and his weight will only make that worse. We want him to be around for as long as possible, which is why we entered him into Pet Fit Club.
Alfie’s six-month Pet Fit Club diet and exercise programme will be specially tailored and overseen by the vets and nurses at Huyton PDSA Pet Hospital, located on Woolfall Heath Avenue.
Lizzie Whitton, the PDSA Vet who will be helping to oversee Alfie’s diet, said: “Pet obesity is an epidemic that is affecting the lives of millions of pets across the country. As with humans, being overweight can lead to higher risk of suffering from serious life-limiting and life-threatening conditions such as arthritis, certain types of cancer and heart diseases.
“It is estimated that up to 40% of cats and dogs are overweight or obese. But with the help of PDSA and Pet Fit Club, Alfie and Anthony are making the necessary diet, exercise and lifestyle changes to help get Alfie down to a healthier weight. We will support them every step of the way over the next six months to ensure they succeed.
“Pet Fit Club has been helping pets lose weight for 14 years, and is a great example of what can be achieved if owners are dedicated and determined to help their pets live a healthier lifestyle. If owners are worried about their pet’s weight they should seek advice from their vet or vet nurse, who can also make sure pets are on the right type of diet, are being fed the correct amount, and recommend ways to increase exercise levels.”