And that hang-dog look can also become a thing of the past.

The “Fat Camp“, or Royal Canin Weight Management Clinic, at the University of Liverpool’s Small Animal Hospital is aiming to tackle the growing problem of portly pets.

The Scotsman newspaper reports that It will do pioneering research into why pampered pets are increasingly prone to “human lifestyle” illnesses linked to their obesity such as diabetes in cats, arthritis in dogs and even depression.

The clinic will take in fat, lazy and sad cats and dogs referred to it by veterinary practices across the local area.

Within weeks it will aim to turn them into fitter, leaner and happier animals, through an intensive regime of crash diets, exercise and “lifestyle” advice.

Dr Alex German, head of the new clinic, said it is not a “Priory for Pets” but aims to help animals, their owners and do much-needed research.

It is estimated about 40 per cent of Britain’s six million dogs and seven million cats are overweight.

Dr German, the owner of eight-year-old Clarence, said: “We are a referral service for vets.

“We can spend longer learning about the individual pets and get a lot more information.

“There are some obvious strong parallels with human obesity and obesity in pets; they share the same environment so it is not surprising.”

Owners will be questioned over lifestyle patterns – leftover meals, lack of backyard romps and too much lap sitting will be among the causes examined.

Pets will receive a medical check-up including blood tests and advice on diet and exercise and be weighed. They will be given a new regime to follow including a low-kilojoule diet.

On their first and last visits they will be examined under a Dual Energy X Ray Absorptionmetry scanner to measure the proportion of “adipose” or fatty tissue in their body.

It will disclose if they have been keeping to the new diet and monitor the success of their individual program.

Clarence, typical of many pets, was “not a particularly active cat” and also had a “healthy appetite“, Dr German said.

Used as a guinea pig for the clinic, he must lose two of his eight kilos in weight and is half way there after six weeks under the new program. Dr German said he was happy with the results.

Referrals to the new unit are free, with Royal Canin, a firm which makes specialist veterinary diets, providing undisclosed funding for the new clinic.

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