Christmas is traditionally a time of over-indulgence for everyone - but don't over-indulge your pets!

Between 25 and 35 per cent of British pets are estimated to be overweight and, as with humans, the main cause is over-eating and too little exercise. Piling on the pounds is not the only problem. Podgy pets are more at risk of developing arthritis, skin irritations, respiratory and heart complaints and spine or limb problems.

Dogs are experts at begging. And because owners like to give extra treats as a means of showing love and appreciation, a dog's pleading whine and dewy-eyed expression can be hard to resist. But remember rewarding a dog for begging will only encourage them to try and try again!

During the festive season we are all more tempted than usual to share our food with our pets. And while a slice of turkey meat is a lean treat, it is wise to hold back on the 'sweet' treats. It is far kinder to withhold the chocolate and the cake and reward good behaviour and companionship with a healthy slice of apple or carrot. Adding extra portions to your pet's normal meals will add to their calorie count.

Around 70 per cent of podgy pets attending PDSA slimming classes are elderly with elderly owners. The extra tit-bits off the table, the shared treats, the over-generous portions - the animal is being loved to death. The trouble is that many treats, intended for human consumption, are laden with fat and unsuitable for a much smaller animal's diet.

However, fattening can mean fatal. For instance medical problems can arise when an overweight pet requires anaesthetic for surgery. The larger the amount of anaesthetic needed, the greater the risk of complications.

Noone deliberately over-feeds their pet - it is all done through kindness.

But you can tell if your pet is overweight by checking their ribs - if they cannot be seen or felt then your pet could be overweight and you should seek advice from your veterinary practice. Your vet will recommend a sensible diet plan to include all the nutrients and calories needed to maintain optimum health.

And if your pet is on a diet over Christmas it is best to discourage begging even if that means keeping him/her out of the room while you are eating. The most important thing to do is not to weaken, remember you are doing this for their benefit and as the old saying goes, you sometimes have to be cruel to be kind.